April 19, 2014

TWO PREVIOUS CANNES WINNERS: LES ORDRES and INDAGINE SU UN CITTADINO AL DI SOPRA DI OGNI SOSPETTO

by David Acacia


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In the evening following the announcement of the Official Selection for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, residual excitement for all things Cannes had me visit the TIFF Cinematheque to watch what proved to be a striking pairing of previous prize winners from the festival. Michel Brault's Les ordres (the 1975 Best Director winner, and only Canadian winner in this category) and Elio Petri's Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion, the 1970 Grand Prix winner), both cautionary exposés of corrupted bureaucracy, could not be less tonally alike.

Les ordres chronicles events of the 1970 "October Crisis", where the War Measures Act (an amendment that would give the government more power as a measure to combat insurrection) was used to incarcerate 465 innocent civilians without charge, after Québécois separatists kidnapped two government officials. Unfolding in a docufiction structure, the film chooses five of the prisoners, and based off actual interviews with these victims, depicts the moral conundrum of whether or not it was appropriate to effect those measures.

While hardly the prototype for a Cannes Best Director Winner (a prize which, more often than not, appears to favour films that may be too divisive to win the Palme d'or, Grand prix or Prix du jury, though featuring some sort of distinctively stylish directorial flair), Michel Brault's modestly rendered direction is nevertheless accomplished. Visually, Les ordres has a bifurcated structure, where events taking place within the prison are shot in colour, while anything that happens outside its confines is portrayed in black and white. One memorable shot illustrates the eventual release of Marie Boudreau, and as she crosses the threshold of where the prison's confines meet the world beyond, the image fades in a transition from colour to black and white that is so subtle, one only realizes the effect moments later. But, for all the merit of its visuals, this is a film most notable for the execution of its tonality. So convincing is its realism, it was necessary for Les ordres to introduce the actors portraying five of the apprehended civilians with a statement of their name, and who they were playing, so as not to be mistaken for a literal documentary. Another film with a largely prison-based setting would likely err in an inclusion of caricatured, menacing jailers, but its understated depiction of the incarceration of the October Crisis's victims is precisely what grounds Les ordres, and allows it to have such a chilling effect, demonstrating how it could be possible for such a bizarre, waking nightmare of a scenario to happen.

Meanwhile, Elio Petri's Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto is an equal to Les ordres in its justified irreverence for authority, but it opts for an entirely different route to reach this eventual conclusion. An angry, though often humorous satire, the film is anchored by the portrayal of Gian Maria Volonté as the jaded head of a homicide department, enigmatically named "Il dottore". After a coital encounter with his lover (Florinda Bolkan, in a superlative performance), with whom he has re-enacted various crimes he has witnessed for the consummation of their depraved erotic fantasies, Il dottore murders her, and proceeds to plant obvious clues to his guilt, in an act of defiance.

At first glance, it feels as though Volonté's performance and the tone set by the musical score (executed with a twinkle in its eye, in what is surely one of Ennio Morricone's greatest achievements amidst an embarrassment of riches) are perhaps too much: they are both so exaggerated that it seems as though Il dottore's demeanour should make it glaringly obvious to his colleagues that he is the author of this crime. But, as the film progresses, it appears with increasing clarity that the thesis of this acidic satire is a brazen condemnation of a wilfully obstinate bureaucratic effort to keep its head in the sand, in regards to internal mismanagement and corruption.

While it would be tempting to see these films as time capsules for a bygone era, it would be... optimistic to think that scenarios such as those depicted in Les ordres or Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto do not still happen regularly. In Canada, the controversy and impact of the October Crisis made it seem as though mass detention of uncharged civilians could not possibly repeat, but just five summers ago during protests coinciding with the G20 Summit in Toronto, hundreds of innocent civilians were taken under arrest. Stories like these are why challenging films are still being made, and it appears as though there will always be a definite need for them.

 

April 1, 2014

57th SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL COMPLETE PROGRAM ANNOUNCED

SFIFF57

SFIFF57 Runs April 24 - May 8

The San Francisco Film Society today announced the complete schedule of films and events that will make up the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival, running April 24 - May 8 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, New People Cinema and the Castro Theatre in San Francisco and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

Download the Festival program here.

Browse the full public program info at festival.sffs.org.

SFIFF 2014 by the Numbers:

168 Films
74 Narrative Features 
29 Documentary Features
65 Shorts
56 Countries Represented
40 Languages
3 World Premieres 
5 North American Premieres 
5 U.S. Premieres 
45 Women Directors
200 Filmmakers and Industry Guests Expected 

Highlights from today's press conference included these announcements:

The SFIFF57 Centerpiece film is Palo Alto, directed by Gia Coppola and based on the collection of short stories by James Franco. Coppola is expected to attend the screening and the Centerpiece Party that follows. 

Pixar's John Lasseter will be the recipient of the George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award, given to a worthy member of the filmmaking community for their outstanding and unique contributions to the art of cinema. Lasseter will be presented with the award at Film Society Awards Night, May 1. Read the full press release for more details.

Stephen Gaghan will be honored with the 2014 Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting, and the Festival will screen his acclaimed film Syriana on May 3. 

Film historian and prolific author David Thomson will receive the Mel Novikoff Award at SFIFF57, which acknowledges an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public's knowledge and appreciation of world cinema. Thomson has selected Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve to screen as part of his tribute on May 4, which will also consist of an onstage conversation with author Geoff Dyer. 

Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award will be given to pioneering filmmaker and installation artist Isaac Julien, with a tribute program that will include a screening of his recent work Ten Thousand Waves on April 27. The POV Award each year honors the achievement of a filmmaker whose main body of work is outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking; crafting documentaries, short films, television, animated, experimental or multiplatform work. 

The SFIFF57 lineup features an unprecedented number of films supported by the San Francisco Film Society's Filmmaker360 program, including Kat Candler's Hellion (SFFS/KRF grant winner: $70,000 for postproduction), Sara Colangelo's Little Accidents (SFFS/KRF grant winner: $50,000 for postproduction), Josef Wladyka's Manos Sucias (two-time SFFS/KRF grant winner: $45,000 for production, $90,000 for postproduction), Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child (Off the Page screenwriting workshop participant), Jesse Moss' The Overnighters (SFFS project development program) and Michael Tully's Ping Pong Summer (SFFS/KRF grant winner: $50,000 for postproduction).

 

 
 

SFIFF57

North American Premiere of Hossein Amini’s 'The Two Faces of January' and Chris Messina’s Directorial Debut 'Alex of Venice' to Bookend 2014 Festival Program
3/26/2014
 
The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 24–May 8) has announced its highly-anticipated Opening Night and Closing Night selections. SFIFF kicks off with the Opening Night presentation of Hossein Amini’s gripping Patricia Highsmith adaptation The Two Faces of January (UK 2014) starring Oscar Issac, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. The Festival will come to a stirring conclusion with Chris Messina’s drama Alex of Venice (USA 2014), starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Messina and Don Johnson. Special guests are expected to attend and will participate in post-screening Q&A’s at each event, and both screenings will be followed by high-energy celebrations.

“We are delighted to offer these exceptional films by first-time directors who are best known for their work in other areas of the film world,” said San Francisco Film Society Executive Director Noah Cowan. “Championing talented artists who aren’t afraid of taking risks is at the heart of the Film Society's mission and our ongoing support of filmmakers around the world. I can’t think of a better pair of films to kick off and wrap up what is going to be an amazing festival.”

With their combination of renowned artists, acclaimed films and San Francisco hot spots, SFIFF’s Big Nights are an annual landmark on the Bay Area cultural calendar. Bookending two weeks of cinematic celebration, the Opening Night and Closing Night festivities give the SFIFF community a chance to gather for the love of world-class film and to drink, dance and discuss from dusk till dawn. The Festival’s Centerpiece film and party will be announced at the SFIFF press conference on April 1.
Two Faces of January

Opening Night: The Two Faces of January
North American Premiere
Thursday April 24, 7:00 pm, Castro Theatre
Special guests expected to attend
Celebrated screenwriter Hossein Amini (The Wings of the DoveDrive) delivers a stylish directorial debut, with this adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith suspense thriller gorgeously filmed on location in Greece and Turkey. In 1962, a well-heeled couple (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst) come to know an American expatriate acting as an Athens tour guide (Oscar Isaac). But an incident at the couple’s hotel puts all three in danger and creates a precarious interdependence between them.

The Opening Night celebration continues at the Public Works (161 Erie Street) at 9:00 pm with an exclusive party featuring hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants, sophisticated cocktails and, of course, dancing. The evening will feature special performances by the Seshen and DJ Lady Ryan. SFIFF Opening Night is sponsored by RBC Capital Markets.
Alex of Venice

Closing Night: Alex of Venice
Thursday May 8, 7:00 pm, Castro Theatre
Special guests expected to attend
Actor Chris Messina creates a winning mix of wistful comedy and heartfelt drama in this tale of accepting the unexpected. Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is an environmental lawyer whose job often keeps her away from the home she shares with her son, husband (Messina) and actor father (Don Johnson, in a knockout performance).  When her husband rebels against being a stay-at-home dad and takes a time out from the marriage, Alex’s world quickly becomes very complicated.

At 9:00 pm the Closing Night party kicks off at The Chapel (777 Valencia Street). Partygoers will bring down the final curtain on SFIFF57 with festive drinks, hors d’oeuvres and music. The evening will feature a special performance by Midnight Sons.

Tickets: Opening Night film and party $65 for SFFS members and $80 for the general public; film only (limited quantity available) $35 for members, $40 general; party only $40 for members, $50 general; VIP film and party $125. 
Closing Night film and party $65 for SFFS members and $80 for the general public; film only (limited quantity available) $35 for members, $40 general; party only $40 for members, $50 general; VIP film and party $125.
Box office opens March 26 for SFFS members and March 28 for the general public, online at sffs.org.

For more information visit sffs.org/Exhibition/SF-International-Film-Festival.
For photos and press materials visit sffs.org/pressdownloads.


57th San Francisco International Film Festival

The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 24–May 8 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, Castro Theatre and New People Cinema in San Francisco and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Held each spring for 15 days, the International is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities, featuring 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards and nearly $40,000 in cash prizes, upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests and diverse and engaged audiences with more than 65,000 in attendance.

San Francisco Film Society
Building on a legacy of more than 50 years of bringing the best in world cinema to the Bay Area, the San Francisco Film Society is a national leader in exhibition, education and filmmaker services. SFFS is headed by Executive Director Noah Cowan, with programmatic leadership by Director of Programming Rachel Rosen, Director of Education Joanne Parsont and Director of Filmmaker360 Michele Turnure-Salleo.
 
The Film Society presents more than 100 days of exhibition each year, reaching a total audience of more than 100,000 people. Its acclaimed education program introduces international, independent and documentary cinema and media literacy to more than 10,000 teachers and students. Through Filmmaker360, the Film Society’s filmmaker services program, essential creative and business services, and funding totaling millions of dollars are provided to deserving filmmakers at all stages of their careers.
 
The Film Society seeks to elevate all aspects of film culture, offering a wide range of activities that engage emotions, inspire action, change perceptions and advance knowledge. A 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, it is largely donor and member supported. Membership provides access to discounts, grants and residencies, private events and a wealth of other benefits.
 
For more information visit sffs.org.
 

February 24, 2014

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR  HONORED AT 11th ICS AWARDS

Overcoming tough competition on the rocky road to stardom, Inside Llewyn Davis took home four top ICS awards, including best picture, ensemble cast, original screenplay, and best actor (in a tie) for Oscar Isaac's soulful portrayal of a down-on-his-luck musician. Yet Blue is the Warmest Color nearly matched it, also with four big wins: best film not in the English language and adapted screenplay, along with actress and supporting actress kudos for the passionate young lovers brought to life by Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, respectively.

Tying with Isaac was Leonardo DiCaprio as debauched stockbroker Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, while supporting actor went to another wonderfully wild performance, James Franco's Alien in Spring Breakers.

Gravity rode its cinematic firepower to three awards: best director for Alfonso Cuarón, along with cinematography and editing. Spike Jonze's warm-natured Her won for its score and production design, while Scarlett Johansson's remarkable computer personality landed her in the runner-up slot for supporting actress. And, in an ICS first, Bruno Delbonnel tied himself (vote-splitting?) for cinematography runner-up with his atmospheric lensing of Faust and Inside Llewyn Davis.

Previously released nominations may be found here.

2014 awards2014 awards


PICTURE
01. Inside Llewyn Davis
02. Blue is the Warmest Color
03. Her
04. Frances Ha
05. The Great Beauty
06. Laurence Anyways
07. Gravity
08. Spring Breakers
09. The Wolf of Wall Street
10. 12 Years a Slave
11. Before Midnight

DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuarón - Gravity
runner-up:  Ethan Coen & Joel Coen - Inside Llewyn Davis

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
01. Blue is the Warmest Color
02. The Great Beauty
03. Laurence Anyways
04. In the House
05. A Touch of Sin
06. Beyond the Hills
06. Faust
08. The Hunt
09. The Past
10. Blancanieves

ACTOR
Oscar Isaac - Inside Llewyn Davis & Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street
runner-up:  Joaquin Phoenix - Her

ACTRESS
Adèle Exarchopoulos - Blue is the Warmest Color
runner-up:  Juliette Binoche - Camille Claudel 1915

SUPPORTING ACTOR
James Franco - Spring Breakers
runner-up:  Anton Adasinsky - Faust

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Léa Seydoux - Blue is the Warmest Color
runner-up:  Scarlett Johansson - Her

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Inside Llewyn Davis - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
runner-up:  Her - Spike Jonze

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Blue is the Warmest Color - Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix
runner-up:  Before Midnight - Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Gravity - Emmanuel Lubezki
runners-up:  Faust & Inside Llewyn Davis - Bruno Delbonnel

EDITING
Gravity - Alfonso Cuarón, Mark Sanger
runner-up:  Spring Breakers - Douglas Crise

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Her - K.K. Barrett
runner-up:  Faust - Elena Zhukova

ORIGINAL SCORE
Her - Arcade Fire, Owen Pallett
runner-up:  All is Lost - Alex Ebert

ENSEMBLE
Inside Llewyn Davis
runner-up:  Frances Ha

ANIMATED FILM
Ernest & Célestine
runner-up:  The Wind Rises

DOCUMENTARY
Stories We Tell
runners-up:  The Act of Killing & Leviathan

BEST PICTURE NOT RELEASED IN 2013
• Child's Pose
• The Congress
• Gloria
• Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision
• The Immigrant
• Like Father, Like Son
• Norte, The End of History
• Only Lovers Left Alive
• The Rendez-Vous of Déjà-Vu
• Snowpiercer
• The Strange Little Cat
• Stranger by the Lake
• Stray Dogs
• Tom at the Farm
• Young & Beautiful

 
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