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Laura Blum


Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for filmfestivals.com. She also publishes on Thalo

 


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“Seasons” Filmmaker Jacques Perrin Goes Wild

There’s a moment in Seasons when a bear covers its eyes in distress as two ursine cousins go at one another with a vengeance. It’s one of many heart tugging scenes in Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s new wildlife drama that captures empathy and tenderness, anger and aggression and a range of relatable behaviors in between. We can’t help but see a bit of ourselves in the secret lives of non-pets such as antelopes, horses, wolves and lynxes, but also smaller...

GRAFF CAPZZ Graffiti Hat Fest

  Harlem artist Marivel Mejia was making a painting, but she wasn’t using a brush. Nor were any of the other creatives gathered this past Saturday at Manhattan’s Bond Street branch of Blick Art Materials. That’s because they were vying in the GRAFF CAPZZ graffiti hat competition, where markers and spray paint were the mediums in play for crafting their entries. Held from noon to 8 pm, the East Village shindig produced a colorway of wearable works that rivaled anything ...

Visual Poetry in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson”

Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is set in the eponymous New Jersey town, and although its brick mill vibe seems an anachronism in our time-lapse, media blitzed world, it invites us to enter a time warp and ponder eternal themes like love. Poetry is of essence in Paterson, beginning with its soulful protagonist. Adam Driver plays a bus driver who composes verse while working his route, and then scrawls it on the pages of his secret diary. He has the same name as this former e...

DP Sean Porter Retrogazes “20th Century Women”

“It was just a subconscious vibe: We’re going to get along and we’re going to augment each other,” recalled cinematographer Sean Porter of his first Skype chat with director Mike Mills. “Its kind of like love at first sight.” The feeling was clearly mutual, and it led to Mills hiring Porter to shoot his new film 20th Century Women. It wasn’t an obvious choice. As the 34-year-old DP pointed out, “We grew up in totally different generations.&...

Director Albert Serra Brings to Life “The Death of Louis XIV”

It’s August 1715, and the French monarch Louis XIV is perched upon his wheelchair, not his throne. The sun has yet to rise over the Gardens of Versailles, yet the crepuscular mood isn’t about the elements. Not even the revelries within his Château can brighten the King’s funk as black gangrenous spots start to spread across his royal flesh. The extinguishing of the Sun King occurs almost entirely around his death chamber in Albert Serra’s new film The Death ...

Interview with "Julieta" Production Designer Antxón Gómez

There’s nothing pretty about heartbreak and guilt or abandonment and loss. But Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar has a knack for gussying up even the darkest themes, and Julieta brings his latest example.  The film is constructed from three Alice Munro short stories — Chance, Soon and Silence — gathered in the Canadian author’s Runaway collection. A fair bit of running away goes on in Almodóvar&rsqu...

Production Designer Hannah Beachler Beams on “Moonlight”

Moonlight, the new film by Barry Jenkins, follows a gay African-American’s quest for identity in a disadvantaged section of Miami. Just as the moon projects no light of its own, but bounces reflected sunlight off its surface, so too the cypher at the core of Jenkins’ drama derives his earliest sense of self from what others make of him. Yet Moonlight is richly illuminating. The production designer Hannah Beachler was tapped to visualize its three distinct phases. Drawn f...

Photographer Elsa Dorfman Looks at "The B-Side"

Using large Polaroid film can get pricey. That’s why photographer Elsa Dorfman always made a point of snapping two photos of her sitters with her large-format Polaroid 20-inch-by-24-inch camera. They got to choose one, and she took the remaining “B-Side.” Dorfman’s distinctive former practice and persona inform The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography. Featured in the 54th New York Film Festival, Errol Morris’s latest documentary carries on his ...

James Schamus Vents “Indignation”

It’s taken James Schamus nearly three decades to tackle directing — and he had to charm Philip Roth in the process. That’s because he chose to adapt the author’s novel Indignation for his feature debut. But Schamus hadn’t exactly been twiddling his thumbs. Among his myriad credits are screenwriter (The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon); producer (Brokeback Mountain) and industry suit (Good Machine, Focus Features), to name...

"Unlocking the Cage" with Steven Wise

Take a chimpanzee. Think about what she thinks about. Does she understand that she has a mind? Can she grasp that other individuals have a mind? Does she have a concept of time? If so — as scientific studies show — this chimp is what animal advocate Steven Wise argues is a self-aware, autonomous “person.” Now to get U.S. law to recognize the fundamental civil rights he says great apes therefore deserve.  Unlocking the Cage documents Wise’s efforts to do just...

At the Fork: A Film About Husbandry and Wife

Opinions vary as to whether we should eat meat. Between At the Fork director John Papola and his producer wife Lisa Versaci, these range from yes, but to hell no. He’s an omnivore; she’s a vegan. That tension — and Papola’s gradual rethinking of food politics — peppers their new film about how animals are raised for our consumption.  It’s March 2015 when the couple sets out across America to find producers of pork, beef, chicke...

Games for Change, Games for Health

  A video game a day keeps the doctor away. Maybe not yet, but as the Games for Change Festival highlighted during its June 23-24 run at The New School’s Parsons School of Design, growing numbers of games are being designed as Rx for the body and mind. Play, it seems, is a serious matter. For its 13th edition, G4C featured a strand probing the impact games can have on health and neuroscience. Many of the mavens who were invited to speak waxed enthusiastic about the potential of ga...

"Art Bastard" Paints Portrait of Robert Cenedella

  You might not expect much tender concern for legitimacy in a film called Art Bastard. Its subject, artist Robert Cenedella, trumpets his rogue status with glee. But Victor Kanefsky’s empathic character study probes the soft underbelly beneath the swagger and exposes the scars of not belonging. Unless you’re a cold-blooded bastard, you’ll come away from this visceral portrait of sentiment, conscience and humor not only enthralled but ready to write your local mus...

Art and Fashion in Andrew Rossi's “The First Monday in May”

Finally you can finally stop kicking yourself for missing The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s blockbuster show China: Through the Looking Glass. In making it the focus of The First Monday in May, filmmaker Andrew Rossi has you covered. Rossi grants a privileged look behind the scenes at the process of conceiving and mounting what went down in Met history as its best-attended exhibition. There’s more texture and fiber onscreen than what you could reasonably expect from the o...

“Elvis & Nixon”

Elvis & Nixon recalls Elvis Presley’s 1970 rendezvous with President Richard Nixon at the White House. If, like me, you’ve never read Jerry Schilling’s first-person account in Me and a Guy Named Elvis: My Lifelong Friendship with Elvis Presley, your next best bet is to go with the movie. Come to think of it, Liza Johnson’s take is kicky enough on its own merits, you can forget any comparison at all. Already from the opening sequence, the film draws you in...

Director Paddy Breathnach's Cuban “Viva”

Irish director Paddy Breathnach (I Went Down, Shrooms) gleaned the idea for his latest film Viva during a visit to Cuba 20 years ago. Now that film, a study in transformation, arrives as the socialist island country braces for inevitable change. Viva follows a gay 18 year old named Jesús (Héctor Medina), who styles wigs for the drag queen joint run by Mama (Luis Alberto Garcia). Jesus himself dreams of taking the spotlight, as glam alter ego Viva. At the other end...

Alexander Berner on Editing “A Hologram for the King”

The king in A Hologram for the King is Saudi Arabia’s, and the hologram involves the Boston sales exec who pitches it to his royal highness. Alan Clay’s the name. Every bit the emotional golem that would suggest, he is America itself, a creature of the corporate mud. Will our has-been marketer win the bid to supply telecommunications to the King’s Metropolis of Economy and Trade megaproject? It doesn’t much matter, because in this film by Tom Tykwer, he&rsquo...

"Keep Quiet": Tribeca Film Festival 2016

  What to do if you’re a raging anti-Semite and you discover your Jewish roots? As probed in the documentary Keep Quiet, it’s the stunner that Hungarian ultra-nationalist Csanád Szegedi began grappling with when his maternal grandparents were outed as Jews.  Keep Quiet opens by showing family snapshots in nostalgic black-and-white. Yet any stirring of sentimentality is quickly dashed with a caveat about what happens “when you base your story on a lie.&rdquo...

"Weiner" Exposes Fallen Politico Anthony Weiner at New Directors/New Films

Narcissim? Masochism? Dreams of redemption?  Whatever may have motivated fallen congressman Anthony Weiner to let filmmakers Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg make a documentary about his 2013 run for mayor of New York City, it’s hard not to ponder this mystery while watching Weiner. So when Kriegman asks his subject, "Why have you let me film this?" he also speaks for the head-scratching viewer. The question comes up the day after the Democratic mayoral primary, whi...

Yaelle Kayam's "Mountain": Grave Matters at New Directors/New Films

The setting of Yaelle Kayam’s Mountain is Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives. This is where, according to Jewish and Christian scriptures, the Messiah will arrive on the Day of Judgment and resurrect the dead. This is also the unlikely spot where our heroine (Shani Klein) and her Yeshiva teacher husband, Reuven (Avshallom Pollack), are raising four young children in the Orthodox Jewish tradition. Tzvia – if that’s indeed her name – is herself a dense mass loom...

Director Nicholas Hytner Rolls with "The Lady in the Van"

Who is the lady in The Lady in the Van and how'd she get there? Nicholas Hytner's newest film puzzles out this enigma till the end, but one thing's settled early on: she's most unladylike. The title also tells us so. Ladies come in manors, not vans. From here the dualities only compound in what fans of testy British humor laced with poignant pangs will surely find a enchantment. It all begins with a motor revving in the pitch black and then boom! -- a shriek and a th...

"Theeb": Naji Abu Nowar's Beduin Western

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What the title hero of Theeb does for his beduin tribe, avenging a dishonor, the Arab world has dreamed of doing ever since modernity and colonial intrigue took a shot at its integrity a century ago. Naji Abu Nowar's stunning debut film unfolds on the Arabian Peninsula during this epochal transition. It's October of 1916, two months into World War I, four months into the Great Arab Revolt and five months into the secret dealmaking between Britain and France that would carve up the ...

Costume Designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux Spruces Up "Brooklyn"

Brooklyn, a period drama starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant to America, is about love, loss and what Ronan wore. Costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux spoke with me about creating wardrobe for the film's Trans-Atlantic cast: http://www.thalo.com/articles/view/1161/costume_designer_odile_dicks_mireaux_spruces_up Brooklyn was a selection of the New York Film Festival and opens theatrically on November 4. ...

Laurie Anderson's "Heart of a Dog" Has Heart and Soul

For more than four decades, Laurie Anderson has been telling us stories about her soul. In the avant-gardists's entrancing new movie Heart of a Dog, she expresses the spirit of her deceased rat terrior as well. Lolabelle, as Anderson told me in 2010, was her "best friend." So it's not surprising that the documentary is dedicated to that companionate canine's loving memory. More about that here: http://www.thalo.com/articles/view/1146/laurie_andersons_heart_of_a_dog_has_he...

The Look of "Truth": A Conversation with Director James Vanderbilt

In my chat with filmmaker James Vanderbilt, we delved more into what his movie Truth got right about its visuals than about the world of journalism. Read here: http://www.thalo.com/articles/view/1160/director_james_vanderbilt_on_the_look_of_truth ...
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