An Online Chris Marker Retrospective

CA.0822.secondlookAvailable this May from the SundanceNow Doc Club, an online documentary subscription service programmed by Thom Powers, is “Chris Marker and His Legacy,” a series of films either by, about or influenced by the prolific French filmmaker. Many admirers know Marker, who died in 2012 at the age of 91, for his haunting 1962 short “La Jetée,” a sci-fi story composed almost entirely of still photographs. (It would later be adapted into the Terry Gilliam-directed feature “12 Monkeys”.) But documentary was his principal genre and he made dozens of them over his long career. Many of them took the form of personal essays and his much-loved 1982 doc “Sans Soleil” is considered a masterpiece of the sub-genre. That film is available in an excellent edition from the Criterion Collection, but most of his films are difficult to find.

The five Marker films in the Docs Club series display his wide range of interests. He was a political activist, and in “Sixth Side of the Pentagon”, co-directed with François Reichenbach, he captured the 1967 anti-war protests that Norman Mailer wrote about in his “Armies of the Night.” For the political Marker, I also recommend “A Grin Without a Cat,” a fascinating portrait of the rise and decline of new left politics in the ‘60s and ‘70s, available on DVD from Icarus Films.

Marker excelled at portraits of artists and the creative process. He filmed Akira Kurosawa shooting “Ran” and Andrei Tarkovsky fans will want to check out “One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich,” his portrait of the great Russian director at work on his last film, “The Sacrifice.” Read more

In Praise of Older Women

L-R: Moderator Anna Merlan, Rosie Perez, Brooke Shields and Daphne Rubin-Vega

L-R: Moderator Anna Merlan, Rosie Perez, Brooke Shields and Daphne Rubin-Vega

“When you get older the sex gets better,” actress Rosie Perez observed yesterday in a discussion held at Manhattan’s NeueHouse work collective space. However, she and three other female stars related, the same is not always true for a woman career in the film industry.

The second annual First Time Fest opened with a panel on “Women in Entertainment” featuring panelists Carol Alt, Rosie Perez, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Brooke Shields. Moderated by Village Voice writer Anna Merlan, the four women talked about the sexism, racism and agism still prevalent in Hollywood.

Model, actress and nutrition activist Carol Alt, who, at 53, “can’t fit into sample sizes anymore,” talked about the careful negotiations for her Playboy December 2008 issue shoot. No retouching was allowed for the cover and fold-out of the then 49 year-old, who calls herself “the Babe Ruth of modeling.” (One thing I learned about her I didn’t know before that we have in common: we were both in Army ROTC!)

Brooke Shields lamented the unfortunate reputation her protective mother got just trying to enforce regulations like the California Child Actor’s Bill, also known as the Jackie Coogan Act. After finishing college Shields says she was horrified to find that four years at Princeton hurt instead of helped her career. Compare that with James Franco’s hiatus at Columbia. Read more

Sexy Beast

UTS_final_digtial_v2Comedian Todd Barry used to joke that the one thing he learned on the Internet was that “‘Donnie Darko” is the greatest film ever made. If I was a teenager right now I’d be tweeting the same thing about Jonathan Glazer’s new film “Under the Skin.” Years later I might be embarrassed by my hyperbolic outburst but not by my enthusiasm. This film rewards those who are willing to watch it with the kind of immersive attention it invites and cultivates. It provides a stunning re-education of the senses; it’s mysterious, scary, and beyond good and evil.

The film is based on a cult science fiction novel of the same name, written by Michael Faber. The story is about an alien creature played by Scarlett Johansson who cruises the streets of Glasgow, luring young single men into her van initially with her charm and then with her lithe, nude body into a pool of amniotic black fluid. Glazer uses a technique in these sequences that adds to the creepiness: many of these scenes were shot with hidden cameras while Johannsson drove around, approaching these unsuspecting Scottish lads for help. Read more