Jan Švankmajer finally gets UK Retrospective

It has come as something of a surprise to find that Jan Švankmajer, at the age of 72, is to be honoured with a retrospective for only the first time in the UK, such is his legendary status both in Surrealism and animation. The tribute programme starting in London (from 1st-23rd June) will include all his shorts and features, including such diversions as working in the pop video format. The overdue assemblage of his many characters and stories amounts to a treat for all acolytes and novices of Švankmajer and of Czech animation in general.

On Tuesday (29th May) he was at the National Film Theatre in London to introduce the first U.K. preview of his new film Lunacy (Sileni) which will begin a two week run at the NFT from 1st June. Lunacy is partly inspired by Marquis De Sade and Edgar Allan Poe. The film has all the usual wicked and witty Švankmajer themes to compliment his signatory live action punctuated by typically grotesque animation. A timid youth is invited by a seemingly deranged Count to his remote chateau and finds a madhouse of blasphemous orgies, a typically Švankmajerian world in which he will find himself trapped.

Švankmajer has gained a reputation over several decades for his distinctive use of stop-motion technique, and his ability to make surreal, nightmarish but somehow entertainingly accessible films full of humour. To judge for yourself, catch up with his work at the NFT which is showing his early shorts to later features in the first weeks of June. A selection of the programme will then go on tour in major UK cities.

See the Czech Centre website for the full Jan Švankmajer programme.

New festival looks for cinema's new audiences

With the theme "a new cinema for a new audience", the first edition of the Drake International Film Festival (DIFF) will open on 23 June in Caserta, southern Italy.
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The 47th Cracow Film Festival: 31st May-5th June 2007

One of Europe’s oldest and most renowned events dedicated to shorts, animations and documentaries will be celebrating its 47th edition this year, running from 31st May to 5th June. Taking place once again in Krakow, Poland’s most beautiful city, the Krakow Film Festival has run continuously since 1961 and in that time has retained an excellent quality program with a no-thrills approach. The programmers dedication to the best in new talent has always meant a high level of entrants to choose from and this reputation has thus ensured a continuing flow of applicants. However, such is the demand for spotting and buying up the next big thing is that the only conspicuous change has come with the Krakow Film Market which will run for the second time this year, from 1st-4th June.

The Festival traditionally features the Polish competition alongside the impressive panorama of Polish documentary, short features and animated productions with the international competition presenting award-winning films and new discoveries from all over the world. During the 47th edition the new competitive section for feature length documentary films will be launched. For the first time, the International Jury will choose the best film in this category out of the ten that made the shortlist. However, those wanting to see something else will find off-competition screenings featuring short films by great masters, newest, most talked-about feature length documentaries, retrospectives and a variety of special screenings.

This year the brilliant Belgian animator Raoul Servais will be honoured with the highest accolade of the festival, the Dragon of Dragons Award. The tenth recipient, he follows legendary names such as Jan Svankmajer, Albert Maysles and Yuri Norstein.
Read more on the award here

Visit the festival website here

Mike Figgis detained for five hours for 'shooting a pilot'

Another terrorism paranoia involuntary comedy. British film director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) spent five hours in the pleasant company of LA airport security staff after saying he was coming to town to 'shoot a pilot', which in film and television speak means, obviously, a test programme. But since security staff in the land of cinema don't know the jargons of the business, - and pilot by now is not really a jargon anymore - they thought it wise to look the term up, just in case.

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One Minute videos

If you happen to be in London next Sunday check out this screening of one-minute videos by contemporary artists, curated by Kerry Baldry, which will be held at:

at 4pm, on Sunday 3rd June 2007
in the Basement, CANDID ARTS TRUST, 3 Torrens St, London, EC1V 1NQ

The screening will include work by:

Kerry Baldry, Steven Ball, Gordon Dawson, Claudia Digangi, Andy Fear, Steve Hawley, Nick Herbert, Riccardo Iacono, Fil Ieropoulos and Lilly Zinan Ding, Hilary Jack, Esther Johnson, Tina Keane, Deklan Kilfeather, David Leister, Lynn Loo, Katherine Meynell, Claire
Morales, Martin Pickles, Stuart Pound, Laure Prouvost, Eva Rudlinger, Philip Sanderson, Erica Scourti, Unconscious Films, Phillip Warnell, Mark Wigan.


California Dreamin' wins Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2007

California Dreamin’ (Endless) by Christian Nemescu, won this year's Un Certain Regard award. California Dreamin’ uses as background the 1999 war in Kosovo. A NATO train transporting military equipment without official documents is stopped in a small Romanian village by the chief of the railway station, who happens to be the local gangster as well. Their arrival changes the place into the village of all opportunities.

And if you want to indulge in footage of the festival, here goes a video wall of Cannes 2007.

Watch: The Painted Veil interview

Here's an interview with Edward Norton about his latest film The Painted Veil (directed by John Lubran) which opened in the UK last month. Lubran is to direct Mary Queen of Scots with
Scarlet Johansoon.


Screening: Conrad and Butler Take a Vacation by Noah Baumbach

A short film was made by Noah Baumbach in 2000, Conrad And Butler Take A Vacation, was included in a DVD edition of Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming (1995) released by Criterion. It is miles away from the highly produced films Baumbach has written (The Life Aquactic with Steve Sissou (2004), The Squid and The Whale (2005), which he also directed). In fact it looks quite drab, but that's part of the humour pursued in this short film. The writing in this comedy about two friends on vacation, one of whom has recently divorced, is very good. The simplicity of Conrad And Butler Take A Vacation is very engaging and it has a suave aura of nostalgia about it.


Brazilian Novelle Vague, Herzog and Punk cinema

There's quite a selection of film events coming up in London. First and foremost, I can't recommend enough the season of Glauber Rocha films that will take place at the Tate Modern in London between 9 June and 28 July. Rocha, the leading light of Cinema Novo was, roughly speaking, Brazil's equivalent of Godard. Even though the former died young at the age 42 in 1981, his legacy is enormous and includes masterpieces such as Black God, White Devil (1964) and Antonio das Mortes (1969, pictured), which are all included in the Tate Modern's of programme.

Another iconoclastic director whose films will be shown in London in June is Werner Herzog. The ICA is hosting a season called The Worlds of Werner Herzog between 9 and 30 June, including recent films such as The Wild Blue Yonder (2005), Wheel of Time (2003), The White Diamond (2004) and Grizzly Man (2005), among others. More info from the ICA website.

Elsewhere the Barbican centre is exploring the development of the punk and post-punk movements through a selection of UK and US features and documentaries called Panick Attack! These include Derek Jarman's The Last of England (1988) and John Waters's Female Trouble (1974), to name but a few. More info from here.


The Lives Of Others breaks UK box-office record

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's thriller and love story The Lives Of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) has taken over £2 million at the box office to date since its release on 13th April, making it the highest grossing German language film ever released in the UK. The film was favourably reviewed on Kamera.


Parents sue school over Brokeback Mountain + Brokeback to the Future

Via ArtThreat: A substitute teacher in Chicago who showed Brokeback Mountain to elementary children is now facing a lawsuit by one child's grandparents of $500,000. Huh?

On the subject of gay cowboys, here's a funny send-up of Back to the Future, re-titled Brokeback to the Future. And it's clocked so far an amazing 4,395,088 views.


YouTube, digital Vaudeville

"I was suddenly struck by the ways that YouTube represents for the early 21st century what Vaudeville represented in the early 20th century."

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John Maybury and Lukas Moodysson - new work soon

There's a fresh news item on Kamera about John Maybury and Lukas Moodysson's new projects.

Read full article +


Cannes 2007 opens

The 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival opened yesterday and footage has already popped up on YouTube, with this clip of the opening ceremony, which looks a bit like the Oscars, actually. That is, grand and cheesy.

The star of the opening day was Norah Jones (pictured) for her starring role in Wong Kar-wai's English language debut, My Blueberry Nights. The word is that it is up against Quentin Tarrantino's Death Proof and the Coen Brother's No Country for Old Men as a contender for the top prize.


The cult of Ian Curtis arrives in Cannes.

Romanian cinema in Cannes.

Romanian cinema in Cannes II.

Russian cinema in Cannes I.

Variety's video on Cannes.

First Estonian film in Cannes.


The Battle of Algiers

The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Algeria/Italy, 1966), which is currently playing theatrically in the UK, was chosen by Guardian readers as their fifth favourite foreign film of all time. Here's the Guardian's comment on the choice:

You could argue that no modern movie has had more political influence. For the tension in this dramatised documentary has been employed in the training and the inspiration of real-life terrorists opposed to occupying forces. Pontecorvo used people who had known the real war in Algeria - from all sides - and you can tell yourself you are seeing the "true" face of outrage. But, in fact, the picture is artfully made in a black-and-white that apparently appeals to Guardian readers a lot. Above all, this reminds us that "real" coverage of terrible events is itself a political weapon. (DT)

The film has been re-released to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the events depicted in it. The winner of numerous awards, including a BAFTAUN Award and both the Golden Lion and the FIPRESCI Award at the 1966 Venice Film Festival, director Gillo Pontecorvo’s highly acclaimed masterpiece is regarded as one of modern cinema's finest achievements.

Set during the 1954 to 1962 Franco-Algerian conflict, The Battle of Algiers authentically recreates the pivotal political events that took place in the city of Algiers between 1954 and 1957. In an attempt to end French colonialism, which had been in place since 1830, in 1954 the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) began a war of liberation, using terrorism to highlight the plight of the Algerian people to the rest of the world. In response to the escalating terrorist violence in the city of Algiers, the French government sent in an armed force of paratroopers to crush the uprising. Authorised to use whatever force and methods were believed to be necessary in bringing an end to the revolution, the actions of the French military led to a regrettable catalogue of atrocities being committed by those on both sides of the conflict.

Watch trailer of The Battle of Algiers +


Lars Von Trier's struggle with depression

Kamera was sad to hear at that one of its favourite European directors, Lars Von Trier, is going through a bout of depression which has thrown his future projects into uncertainty. According to an article issued by the Associated Press, Von trier said last Saturday said to the Danish newspaper Politiken that after his treatment for depression earlier this year he has been left like a "blank sheet of paper." His next planned project, but which now is indefinitely on hold, is a horror movie called Antichrist, which depicts Satan as the world's creator.

We hope Von Trier gets better soon.

Read more +

Von Trier has a comedy being released in the U.S on 23/5. It's called The Boss of it All. Here's the Danish trailer +


Event: The Subjective Camera

As part of the Subjective Camera series, dedicated to retrospective film screenings of six film artists whose work examines subjectivity with an analysis of film language, on 16 May the focus will be on Michael Maziere. Works to be screened include The Bathers, Swimmer and the London premiere of the 2005 LAFVA-supported film, Assassin.

The screening will take place at Greenwich Picturehouse on 16 May, 6.45pm and will be followed by a question and answer session with the artist.

Tickets are £6 and can be booked through the Picturehouse website or the box office on 0870 755 0065.

New on Kamera

Kamera has a few fresh goods on it. We have a three-part feature on Wim Wenders. Here's part I, part II and part III. We also have a critical preview of the Cannes Film Festival and an interview with American director and essayist Lynn Hershman Leeson, whose film Strange Culture chronicles the current case of American artist Steve Kurtz being charged with bioterrorism by a paranoid FBI.


Jodie Foster to play Leni Riefenstahl. Finally.

So it seems that finally the long-rumoured Leni Riefenstahl Hollywood biopic starring the recently outed-again Jodie Foster is going to get off the ground. The German director, who died at the age of 101 in 2003 and whose biggest contribution to the art of cinema was the stunning documentary about the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin (Olympia), surely is superb biopic material and it is easy to see the attraction such a project holds to Foster (who actually does look like the young Riefenstahl). What remains to be seen is how much the film will focus on Riefenstahl's Nazi connections and - one can only wish - try to emulate her superb aesthetic sense.


A rose-strewn press release for La Vie En Rose

I just loved the lyricism in the press release for the upcoming film about France's 'little sparrow' Edith Piaf, called, you guessed it, La Vie En Rose (pictured). So here it goes:

"From Director Olivier Dahan comes the screen biography of legendary French singer Edith Piaf. Starring Marion Cotillard (A Good Year, A Very Long Engagement), LA VIE EN ROSE celebrates the extraordinary life of one of the world’s best-loved performers.

From the streets of the cutthroat Belleville district of Paris to the limelight of New York’s concert halls, Edith Piaf’s life was a constant battle to sing and survive, to live and love. Raised in bitter poverty, surrounded by hookers, pimps and petty criminals, Edith’s magical voice provided an escape, making her a star on both sides of the Atlantic.

Her passionate romances and friendships with some of the biggest names of the period – Yves Montand, Jean Cocteau, Charles Aznavour, Marlene Dietrich and world champion boxer Marcel Cerdan – made her a household name, as did her memorable live performances and beautiful renditions of songs heard across the globe: La Vie en Rose, Hymn To Love, Non Je ne Regrette Rien and many more. But despite her determination to deny her tragic destiny, the “Little Sparrow” – as she was known – flew so high that she could not fail to burn her wings" (italics are definitely mine!).

Verdict: sold!

La Vie en Rose will open in cinemas across the UK on 22 June 2007.

And here's the little sparrow in action:

Witchcraft at the Barbican + Polanski

The Barbican cinema in central London is showing on Sunday 06 May the legendary and infamous Häxan (Sweden 1922 Dir. Benjamin Christensen 104min). The film was banned in every country in Europe when first released in 1922. It was one of the first drama-documentaries, integrating fact and fiction, and Christensen's experimental style endeared it to the Surrealists. A brew of the horrific, gross, and darkly comedic, Häxan chronicles grave robbing, repressed eroticism, possessed nuns, and a satanic Sabbath, as the director asserts that the ‘witches’ of the Middle Ages suffered the same mass hysteria as did the mentally ill centuries later. Häxan retains a powerful and shocking contemporary resonance, and emerges as a moving, disturbing but ultimately liberating study of the persecution of the mentally ill, women, the poor and the elderly. Geoff Smith's (pictured) new score for Häxan further explores his pioneering approach to composition and performance that was exemplified in his recent scores for Faust and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

  • Still at the Barbican, the venue will be screening throughout May a bevy of Polanski films, including his first foray into cinema, the Novelle Vague-y Knife in the Water (1962).

Barbican film +


Trailer: Strange Culture

Shown this year at Sundance and Berlin (no theatrical releases scheduled yet), Strange Culture deals with the nightmare of internationally-acclaimed artist and professor Steve Kurtz began when his wife Hope died in her sleep of heart failure. Police arrived, became suspicious of Kurtz’s art, and called the FBI. Within hours the artist was detained as a suspected 'bioterrorist' as dozens of agents in hazmat suits sifted through his work and impounded his computers, manuscripts, books, his cat, and even his wife’s body. Today Kurtz and his long-time collaborator Dr. Robert Ferrell, former Chair of the Genetics Department at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, await a trial date.

The trailer makes the film look very promising and it stars Tilda Swinton and Peter Coyote as themselves.

Watch trailer +