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Film Comment November - December 2014

For over 50 years, an award-winning mix of international news, interviews, and critical reviews has kept Film Comment’s readers in touch with the state of movie art. Find out why Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh, and Quentin Tarantino subscribe.

United States
Film Society of Lincoln Center
$7.90(Incl. tax)

in this issue

1 min
“it’s the pictures that got small”: charles brackett on billy wilder and hollywood’s golden age

A favorite expression of Charles Brackett, the wordsmith who traded in a seat at the Algonquin Round Table for a studio desk in the Thirties, was “mirabile dictu.” After reading nearly 400 pages of his diary, his eagerness to relay events is duly noted. From the day Brackett arrived at the Hollywood haunts he’d read about in fan magazines back east, he chronicled his triumphs and failures in concise journal entries, which were safeguarded by his grandson and have now been released 45 years after the screenwriter’s death. Whether basking in a “day of rip-snorting work” or shaking off a “day of hell,” we are treated to the unvarnished analysis of a bemused onlooker. “We are not reading about a Hollywood celebrity,” notes editor Anthony Slide, “but, rather, a man…

1 min
terence davies

The world of Terence Davies is built on antitheses. One gathers as much from the titles of his six features and three shorts, which habitually juxtapose disparate notions or dimensions, either through conjunction (Of Time and the City), reflection (Distant Voices, Still Lives), or implication (The Deep Blue Sea). Michael Koresky’s study of Davies is above all attuned to the contradictions that define his life and inform his work, namely “beauty and ugliness, the real and the artificial, progression and tradition, motion and stasis.” A stylist of musical tableaux at odds with his medium’s commercial imperatives and a queer auteur estranged from his community for retrograde self-loathing, Davies finds himself exiled artistically to the margins of the margins—the origin point for some of cinema’s most eloquent treatments of identity. Koresky unpacks…

1 min
the theory of everything

Director: James Marsh Country/Year: U.K., 2014 Opening: November 7 Where: Limited WHILE HIS IMPECCABLY STRUCTURED, almost ashamedly entertaining documentaries Man on Wire (08) and Project Nim (11) have proven him to be a storyteller of the highest order, James Marsh’s narrative films have tended to seem handicapped, for better and worse, by other people’s writing. Following two memorably grim procedural thrillers based on novels (Red Riding: 1980 in 2009 and Shadow Dancer, 12), his latest elegantly realizes Anthony McCarten’s adaptation of Jane Hawking’s memoir about her marriage to Nobel Prize–winning physicist Stephen Hawking. Considering the unconventional nature of Hawking’s life—the scientist, played by Eddie Redmayne, becomes progressively paralyzed by ALS yet still authors a number of groundbreaking papers and fathers three children with Jane (Felicity Jones)—it’s disappointing to see it slotted into the formulaic conventions…

1 min
on set with john carpenter: the photographs of kim gottlieb-walker

In the mid-Seventies, Kim Gottlieb-Walker was a UCLA film grad turned photojournalist looking for a way into Hollywood. She took a job shooting stills for the swiftly forgotten Wolfman Jack comedy Hanging on a Star (78), but the script supervisor was Debra Hill, who was about to co-write and produce Halloween. Hill hired Gottlieb-Walker to take production stills on the horror classic, and she continued on in that role for the next four Hill-Carpenter productions: The Fog, Escape from New York, Halloween II, and Christine. On Set with John Carpenter: The Photographs of Kim Gottlieb-Walker is a playful photography book that documents the slow professionalization of the whole ragtag Hill-Carpenter cast and crew. Gottlieb-Walker’s pictures exhibit an all-for-one vibe; the biggest star on the Halloween set was seemingly the Panaglide steadicam…

1 min
two days, one night

Directors: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne Country/Year: Belgium/France/Italy, 2014 Opening: December 24 Where: New York and Los Angeles THE DARDENNE BROTHERS LOVE A GOOD story, and Two Days, One Night, their radiant new film, features one of their best. After emerging from a bout of depression, a young woman named Sandra (Marion Cotillard, seamlessly inhabiting the nearly celebrity-free universe of the Dardennes’ films) loses her job as a factory worker. Over a single weekend, husband in tow, she visits her co-workers one by one and tries to convince them to fund her re-hiring by giving up their scheduled bonuses. The responses she gets are variously belligerent, guilt-ridden, defensive, effusive, apologetic, conflicted, and cold. A lesser pair of filmmakers might have settled for arranging the encounters on a spectrum of sympathy, from the young man who spirals…

1 min

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée Country/Year: U.S., 2014 Opening: December 5 Where: Limited BESET BY PERSONAL DEMONS, CHERYL Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) sets out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail solo. It’s a difficult journey even for an experienced trekker, and early on it’s clear that Cheryl is a novice in way over her head: before she even sets off, she comically overstuffs her frame pack and struggles to get it on. It’s a lighthearted scene that nonetheless hints at the heavy psychological load she carries. Wild initially seems to be of the same ilk as Into the Wild or 127 Hours, following the doomed outing of a young protagonist venturing alone deep into nature’s unforgiving maw. Threats lurk around every bend—the chilling buzz of a rattlesnake, the leers of uncouth men—while dehydration and starvation are never far…