New on Kamera: Steven Akasaki, Science is Fiction and festival news

Lots of new stuff on Kamera: there's an interview with Steven Okasaki about his documentary on the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the people who survived them; Ian Haydn Smith reviews thew DVD compilation of Jean Painlevé's pioneer nature films, Science is Fiction, and on the news page you'll find out which festivals are accepting submissions at the moment.

Antonioni dies at 94

Just as we were all mourning Bergman's death, we found out that Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow Up, L'Eclisse) died at 94 last night. Alongside Bergman, he was one of the last living cinema greats, a beacon of Italian cinema when it was the forefront of artistic invention. He will be much missed.


Ingmar Bergman dies at 89

Reuters has reported that Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman died today at the age of 89 at his home on Faro Island in the Baltic Sea.

What can we say? The film world has lost of one of its greatest and kindest maestros and he will be much missed by film lovers world over.

Limite: close reading and clips

Limite is a film by Mario Peixoto, who was twenty-two years old when he made it in 1931. Influenced by Soviet cinema at the time, Peixoto was looking for an aesthetic of pure cinema and created one of the great masterpieces of poetic cinema, perhaps not so well-known like its European equivalents because it was made in South America. Here's a link to a close reading of the film with lots of pictures which gives a good idea about its content. Brazilian film director Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries) gave a masterclass about Limite at the last Cannes festival to celebrate the film's print restoration so hopefully it will be getting a DVD release in the near future.

And here are some fragments of Limite found on YouTube:


YouTube: 100 Movies, 100 Quotes, 100 Numbers

Alonso Mosley is a librarian and media aficionado, the man behind the entertainment web directory, The La-La Land Library. Sourcing from his amazing archiving skills and knowledge, Mosley constructed this parody of all the "100" list specials that the American Film Institute keeps putting out, which finds in Britain its equivalent in Channel 4. Have fun trying to guess which films the clips are from.


Valkyrie's shooting starts in Berlin

The long-standing, unabating cinematic fascination with Hitler gains a new lease of life as the shooting of the Tom Cruise-starred Nazi flick Valkyrie started in Germany last week. United Artists Entertainment LLC describes the film as "a suspense thriller based on the true story of the daring German officers’ plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944."

Directed by Bryan Singer (“The Usual Suspects,” “Superman Returns,” “X Men,” “X2: X-Men: United”) and written by Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects,” “The Way of the Gun”) and Nathan Alexander, “Valkyrie” reunites Singer and McQuarrie for the first time since their 1995 thriller “The Usual Suspects.”

Tom Cruise, who hasn't looked this good (see pictures) in quite a long time, heads an international cast as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the aristocratic German officer who led the attempt to bring down the Nazi regime and end the war by planting a bomb in Hitler’s bunker. Also starring are Kenneth Branagh (“Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”), Bill Nighy (“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”), Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom”), Carice van Houten (“Black Book”), Eddie Izzard (“Ocean’s Thirteen”), Christian Berkel (“Black Book”), Thomas Kretschmann (“King Kong”), and Terrence Stamp (“Billy Budd,” “Superman,” “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”).

The “July 20 Plot” on Hitler’s life is one the least known episodes of World War Two. Severely wounded in combat, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg returns from Africa to join the German Resistance and help create Operation Valkyrie, the complex plan that will allow a shadow government to replace Hitler’s once he is dead. But fate and circumstance conspire to thrust Stauffenberg from one of many in the plot to a double-edged central role. Not only must he lead the coup and seize control of his nation’s government, he must kill Hitler himself.

The film is slated for a summer 20008 release.


Manda Bala (Send a Bullet): interview with producer Joseph Salomon Frank

The hype has been building for a while and Manda Bala, a documentary about corruption and kidnapping in Brazil which won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize this year, is slated for a 17 August release in the US - no other dates scheduled yet, according to IMDB. The film has been translated as Send a Bullet, which is a literal translation from the original Portuguese title, but a more precise translation would be 'bite the bullet'. Never mind. Chief magazine has published a lengthy interview with producer Joseph Salomon Frank, which you can read here.


Screening: Glauber Rocha's A Idade da Terra (The Age of Earth)

Rare screening alert! Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni said that in Brazilian Cinema Novo director Glauber Rocha's The Age of Earth ‘each scene is a lesson in how modern cinema should be made.’

After stints in Cuba, the United States and Europe, in 1980 Rocha returned to Brazil to make the film, which was his last. This monumental culmination of his career is an urgent ‘anti-symphony’ intended to reinvent Brazilian cinema. Originally, the 16 reels of the film were to be presented in a random order. The frenzied feast of allegories and symbols defied rational reality and sought to ‘resist the classification of colonial anthropology’.

The Age of Earth will be screened at the Tate Modern in London tomorrow, 21/7, at 7pm.


Free film screenings: South London Gallery

As part of a season called THE WEASEL, which runs until 29 July at the South London Gallery, there's a free programme of films, which are:

60 mins, shown daily at 1.30pm
Maxi Geil!’s ‘porn-rock opera’ Nausea II is a humorous musical based around the sex industry, and the amusing similarities between the glamour and shock of both the art world and porn industry. The film combines disenchantment with contemporary desires with a wistful return to old-fashioned song and dance routines.

30mins, shown daily at 3.30pm
Make Me Yours Again is an unscripted portrait of young people talking about love and loss, using homemade ‘mix tapes’ as a trigger. Made during a residency in New Zealand, this work continues Forsyth & Pollard’s Precious Little series.

20 mins, shown daily at 5pm
The River, inspired by Pare Lorentz’s script for a film of the same name, began with the commission of several New York bands to create music to accompany Lorentz’s poetry. The resulting documentary shows gritty footage of the studio sessions.

South London Gallery

YouTube: Clip of Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan bio leaks to the web

The much-anticipated Bob Dylan film Todd Haynes has directed with Cate Blanchett, among many others, playing Dylan, I'm Not There, seems to be finally upon us. It was completed last month and is due for a September U.S release. A clip showing Blanchett's Dylan having a conversation with Allen Ginsberg through the window of a car is on YouTube:

Trailer: Bruno Drumont's Flandres

Read Edward Lamberti's review of Flandres on Kamera.


Japan Cuts: A Fig Tree in New York

By Thessa Mooij

(New York) - New York’s Japan Society usually screens the occasional film – such as historical biopics with a national character – that aren’t picked up by any U.S distributors or any of the city’s festivals.

However this year, the society presents its first full-bodied programme: Japan Cuts. This moniker definitely fits the bill. Co-produced with the New York Asian Film Festival, with its fondness for cult-ish horror and Bollywood B-movies, Japan Cuts consists of 15 U.S and New York premieres. No less than 13 of those have violent subject matters involving cut-up corpses, killers, yakuza, manga, personal angst or war traumas. The legacy of the samurai sword is alive and kicking.

Having recently enjoyed such classics as Harakiri, Tokyo Drifter and Ugetsu, I sadly lack the stomach for the current heirs of these genres: Miike Takashi and the younger generation of filmmakers with their penchant for extreme horror.

Two out of 15 films in the Japan Cuts programme seemed to be colorful, whimsical and made by female directors. Kakome Diner by Naoko Ogigami is about a Japanese woman who decides to move to Helsinki out of the blue, and opens up a diner there.

Having missed the other film at this year’s Berlin festival, where it won the Netpac award for best Asian film, I decided to go see Faces of a Figtree (pictured). The protagonist is Maasa, a high-strung mother and wife, who unintentionally alienates her grumpy husband and emotionally absent children the more she fusses over them. Her only real friend is the fig tree in her garden. Seen from her own scatter-brained perspective, the film promised to be a surreal character study.

I had first read about Faces of a Figtree in the December 2006 issue of Metropolis magazine, Tokyo’s English-language weekly. The film is the directing debut of veteran actress Kaori Momoi, who has worked Kurosawa, Sokurov, Miike Takashi and Rob Marshall (Memoirs of a Geisha). In Metropolis, an ebullient Momoi claims to have directed before under a pseudonym, because “in Japan, men find smart women unattractive. So I didn’t showcase my name. Now that I’m older, I’m at a point where I can reveal my name as a director.” Yes, and she also hopes to become 120 without significantly aging.

Details of such alleged previous work are not forthcoming and Faces of a Figtree shows all the hallmarks of a long-awaited feature debut. The hyperrealism is frantic, firing at all cylinders. Momoi’s joy of playing with extreme close-ups, animated non-sequiturs and visual jokes is infectious.

When Maasa's husband dies from overwork on his construction site, it turns out all the nagging and silences was really an expression of love between them. Maasa goes into denial for a while, but when she moves from her traditional Japanese home into her daughter’s apartment close to the Tokyo Tower, she finds some sort of balance. Happily working in a restaurant, where she can continue her frantic culinary administrations, the owner asks her to marry him.

This is where the film’s enthusiasm fails to carry it any longer. Maasa becomes completely unhinged. Her current husband is caring and understanding (and naturally her previously barren fig-tree is finally bearing fruit), but this is precisely the moment that she can’t keep it together any more.

Most actors love to showcase their abilities by playing madmen or junkies and by directing her first feature, Ms Momoi has created her very own showcase. But the other actors hold themselves up well against her self-indulgence. There is something about Maasa’s (and presumably Momoi’s own) frantic energy, colorful art direction and vibrant cinematography that keeps this uneven debut going.

Being no expert in current Japanese cinema, and not having seen any other films in this Japan Cuts programme, I am wondering whether Japanese films are drawn along neat gender lines: violence from male directors, whimsical quirks from female directors.

Are there any Kamera readers out there who have seen any films that could confirm or refute this? Can anyone recommend any other current Japanese films and has anyone discovered any new potential Miike Takashi's out there?


New on Kamera: interview with Christian Alvart

Fresh content alert! An interview with German director Christian Alvart, who helmed the thriller/horror flick Antibodies, has just been posted on Kamera. Calum Waddell talked to Alvart.

Woody Allen starts shooting in Barcelona

Woody Allen's New York films are definitely a thing of the past. After London, the American director has moved on to Barcelona, where he started shooting his new work, 'Midnight in Barcelona'. The financiers must have been keen on capitalising on the city's frothy reputation and made sure its name got into the title!

According to a press release that arrived through Kamera's wires today, crowds gathered in Barceloneta 'hoping for a glimpse' of cast members Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.

At a press conference held in Barcelona on 02 July, Allen expressed his enthusiasm for the project, having spent previous weeks location scouting in the city: 'I hope I can present Barcelona to the world as I see it, the same way I presented Manhattan to the world as I saw it with my eyes', he said.

Cruz and Bardem are old film mates, having starred together in the 1992 film 'Jamon, Jamon' directed by Bigas Luna.

Allen's latest Hollywood muse Scarlett Johansson, who has previously worked on projects including 'Match Point' and 'Scoop' with Allen, arrived in Barcelona early last week for filming.

While details of the film have been kept well under wraps Allen has said of his latest project 'I want to write a love letter to Barcelona and from Barcelona to the world.' Very vague indeed. I personally won't hold my breath for anything coming from Allen, whose films I always found a tad too middle class for my liking, as well as wordy but without much to say.


Reminder: Screening of Stella Polare

Hello everyone, just a quick post to remind you all of tomorrow's screening of Stella Polare, Kamera's first public screening, which will take place at the Fleapit in Columbia Rd, E2, London. Hope to see you all there. Entry is free.