Spanish director dies at age 69. Villaronga broke onto the International scene with his soul-shattering debut feature In a Glass Cage, a twisted tale about the seductive power of evil. An ex-Nazi doctor named Klaus with a history of violent acts of sadomasochism and murder against children lives in relative anonymity in post-War Spain, continuing his acts of cruelty against children. A former now teenage aged victim named Angelo catches up to Klaus, who is left paralyzed and on a life support system after a failed suicide attempt. Angelo is hired as his live-in nurse, and is drawn to both enacting revenge on Klaus but also assuming his role as torturer. Villaronga never quite scaled the heights of his debut, but made many solid films, often dealing with the Spanish Civil War or psychic and supernatural phenomena, such as 99.99 (1997), El Mar (2000), Black Bread (2010), poverty in 1990s Havana (The King of Havana, 2015). His last film was the 2021 shipwreck adventure In The Belly of the Sea, loosely based on the historical tragedy of the French frigate Méduse, which became grounded on the Bank of Arguin on July 2, 1816.
Postscript: Sometimes, sadly, death notices are the first things to alert us to the existence and accomplishments of some people; and here, below, are a list of some of the distinguished people lost in the last year or so —their end may be a beginning of our new knowledge…
Shinzo Abe, Japanese Prime Minister (September 21.1954 – July 8, 2022)
Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State (May 15, 1937 – March 23, 2022)
Jeff Barnaby, filmmaker (1976 – October 13. 2022)
Jeff (Geoffrey) Beck, guitarist (June 24, 1944 – January 10, 2023)
Jean-Jacques Beineix, filmmaker (October 8, 1946 – January 13. 2022)
Peter Bogdanovich, historian, writer, filmmaker (July 30, 1939 – January 6, 2022)
Calvin Otis Butts III, minister, administrator, and activist(July 19, 1949 – October 28, 2022)
James Caan, actor (March 26, 1940 – July 6, 2022)
Barbara Ehrenreich, writer and activist (August 26, 1941 – September 1, 2022)
Todd Gitlin, teacher and writer (January 6, 1943 – February 5, 2022)
Sam Gilliam, abstract painter (November 30, 1933 – June 25, 2022)
Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet Union President (March 2. 1931 – August 30, 2022)
Lani Guinier, attorney and educator (April 19, 1950 – January 7, 2022)
Dorothy Pitman Hughes, feminist activist and business woman (October 2, 1938 – December 1, 2022)
Kamoya Kimeu, paleontologist and curator, (1938 – July 20, 2022)
William Klein, photographer and filmmaker (April 19, 1926 – September 10, 2022)
Guy Lafleur, hockey player (September 20, 1951 – April 22, 2022),
George Lamming, writer (June 8, 1927 – June 4, 2022)
Richard Leakey, paleoanthropologist (December 19, 1944 – January 2, 2022)
Irene Papas, actress and singer (September 3, 1929 – September 14, 2022)
Wolfgang Petersen, writer and filmmaker (March 14, 1941 – August 12, 2022)
Anita Pointer, singer and songwriter (January 23, 1948 – December 31, 2022)
Sidney Poitier, writer, director, actor (February 20, 1927 – January 6, 2022)
Lisa Marie Presley, singer (February 1, 1968 – January 12, 2023)
Bob Rafelson, filmmaker (February 21, 1933 – July 23, 2022)
Arthur Dale Riggs, geneticist (August 8, 1939 – March 23, 2022)
Andre Leon Talley, fashion journalist and editor (October 16, 1948 – January 18, 2022)
Jean-Louis Trintignant, actor (December 11, 1930 – June 17, 2022)
Barbara Walters, journalist and media producer (September 25, 1929 – December 30, 2022)
Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and philanthropist (21 April 1926 – 8 September 2022)
Compiled by Daniel Garrett
Who cannot imagine seeing a movie as part of a fun night with friends? Or seeing a film before or after dinner as part of a romantic date? When does entertainment become art? Are there sources of knowledge in cinema? Can film ask (and answer) philosophical questions? Does art partner us in living our lives?
I admire Saul Bellow, Sigmund Freud, Lee Krasner, Lenny Kravitz, Karl Marx, Mike Nichols, Sidney Pollack, Carly Simon, Troye Sivan, Susan Sontag, Adrienne Rich, Barbra Streisand, and Fred Zinnemann—but, then, I admire a lot of people. The Jews—a people whose roots go back thousands of years, to iron age western Asia, the lands of Israel and Judah, a people sometimes integrated, sometimes separated from others; a people of shared culture and religion built on belief in a special covenant between themselves and the divine—have had a long and difficult history; and yet it was surprising to many of us to see a rise in prejudice against Jews, especially as the prejudice seems anachronistic—crude, paranoid, superstitious—in a modern multicultural and scientific age. Isn’t all prejudice the same prejudice: dislike, disrespect, or distrust rooted in ignorance and suspicion, an intolerance of difference? I, like many, tried to understand this resurgence of enmity, but it made me realize as well that, despite what I had read, despite whatever films of fact or fiction I had seen, I did not know as much about Jewish history as I might have assumed. I began to study anew, seeing Simon Schama’s five-part 2014 Public Broadcasting Service series The Story of the Jews and taking a look at his book of the same name, published by Ecco (2014). How could an ancient bias survive or reborn now? I remembered that Germany had been a modern country, full of civilization, full of artistic and intellectual and scientific accomplishment, when it had been provoked, with Hitler’s encouragement, by old hatred against Jews. I reconsidered films I had already seen, such as Night and Fog (1956) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and Schindler’s List (1993) and Never Look Away (2018), and I saw films I had long meant to see such as The Young Lions (1958) and Downfall (2004). I welcomed the Ken Burns three-part documentary The U.S. and the Holocaust (2022). Many such films, whether of fact or fiction, have received attention and discussion: the works seemed to penetrate consciousness. Was awareness fleeting, or lasting? Can everyone be reached, or just enough people to forestall disaster?
Of course resources for further education have been available, remain available: whether books such as Elie Wiesel’s memoir of his experience of incarceration in Nazi Germany, the book Night, published in Argentina in 1956, France in 1958, and in America in 1960; and Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (2004) by Daniel Boyarin; Between Muslim and Jew (1995) by Steven Wasserstrom; The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) by Shlomo Sand; Makers of Jewish Modernity (2016) edited by Jacques Picard, Jacques Revel, Michael Steinberg, Idith Zertal; and, among many other titles, Final Solution (2016) by David Cesarani; as well as films such as Gentlemen’s Agreement (1945); Exodus (1960); Shoah (1985); The Merchant of Venice (2004); Waltz with Bashir (2008); and Night Will Fall (2014). In addition, there are film festivals focused on Jewish culture and experience: among them, the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival, February 4 through 26, 2023, in Charlotte, North Carolina; the Jewish Film Festival of Southwest Florida, February 5 – March 5, 2023; the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, February 8 – 21, 2023; the Greenville Jewish Film Festival, March 9 – 12, 2023; and the Israel Film Festival November 8 – 19, 2023 in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami; the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, July 20 – August 6, 2023; and the Toronto Jewish Film Festival June 1 – 11, 2023.
Do we want to know about experiences other than our own? Is film culture part of our intellectual lives? Can it affect our civic life? There are film festivals devoted to other continents and countries, other cultures, other consciousness: the Pan African Film and Arts Festival is in Los Angeles, from February 9 through the 20th in 2023; and the African Film and Arts Festival is June 1 – 5, 2023 in Dallas, Texas; and there are African film festivals in different parts of the globe, including Cambridge, England; New York, New York (USA); and Durban, South Africa—just as there are festivals devoted to Native Americans, to women filmmakers, to gay, lesbian and bisexual experience, and to animated and experimental film.
Films of fact rather than fiction are an acquired taste for some, and for many they are a necessity: in a world in which so many lies are spoken, in which there is as much misinformation as news or truth, works that present what is real become ever more precious. One of the year’s first festivals devoted to documentaries is the Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels (or, International Documentary Festival), often referred to as FIPADOC, held in Biarritz, France, and it is open to film professionals and the general public, January 20 through 28, 2023. There are twelve films listed in the festival’s online program, including Catching the Pirate King by Lennart Stuyck and Maarten Stuyck, about Somali pirates’ attack on merchant ships, including that of a Belgium crew; Casa Susanna by French director Sebastien Lifshitz, about a 1950s refuge for crossdressers in New York; Crows are White by Ahsen Nadem, a Saudi immigrant to the United States, about honesty and negotiating religion and marriage across cultures; and Umberto Eco: A Library of the World by Italian novelist and filmmaker Davide Ferrario, about the writer of The Name of the Rose and his library of more than 30,000 books. Last year Pawel Lozinski, a Polish filmmaker whose oeuvre includes twenty well-received and rewarded documentaries, intimate social portraits including Birthplace, Chemo, Father and Son, Sisters, and You Have No Idea How Much I Love You, won the Grand Prize for The Balcony in the International Documentary category for 2022. Other categories nominate and judge for the best documentary utilizing music; the best French documentary not yet released in France; the best social impact work; the best short film; and the best historical (European) documentary.
Other festivals screening documentaries include: The True/False Film Festival, March 2 – 5, 2023, in Columbia, MO; Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, March 2-12, 2023, in Greece; the Hot Docs Festival, April 27 – May 7, 2023, in Toronto, Canada; the Sheffield Doc Fest, June 14 – 19, 2023, in the United Kingdom; DOK Leipzig, October 8 to – 15, 2023, in Germany; the International Documentary Film Festival, Nov. 8 – 19, 2023, in Amsterdam; and DOC NYC, NOV 8 – 26, 2023, in downtown Manhattan.
Is film culture part of our intellectual lives, or part of our spiritual experience? If suffering were the teacher we are told it is, we would know more than we do. Certainly, if humane culture could help and heal us all as many of us wish, we would be more enlightened, happier, and even more efficient than we are—wiser. If Israeli Jews had learned all they could from their own history, their treatment of the Palestinians would be more kind, if not more just. Isn’t all prejudice that same prejudice? No, sometimes prejudice is built on competition and the aggression and fear of defeat it breeds. Sometimes prejudice is based on past experience, or observation. The Jews and Palestinian Arabs have been fighting for the same territory, each asserting ancient claims. If you know little of this, it is not that hard to find out more. Books on Palestine include: Palestine; A Four Thousand Year History (2018) by Nur Masalha and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006) by Ilan Pappe; A History of the Arab Peoples (1997) by Albert Hourani; The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine (2020) by Rashid Khalidi; The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007) by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt; Palestine: A Personal History (2008) by Karl Sabbagh; The Question of Palestine by Edward Said (1992?), as well as Black Power and Palestine by Michael Fischbach. There are very good films on the Palestinian experience such as Ajami (2009); Bethlehem (2013); A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (2010); Jenin, Jenin (2003); Omar (2014); Out in the Dark (2012); Paradise Now (2005); Private (2004); Rana’s Wedding (2002) Salt of this Sea (2008); and The Time that Remains (2009). And there are, and have been, Palestinian film festivals in Boston, Chicago, Boston, Bristol, Houston, Leeds, London, Toronto, and other cities.
by Daniel Garrett
I was saddened to hear of the passing of the great Indie film producer Edward Pressman. I was fortunate to have met him (virtually alas) when I was asked to moderate a masterclass with Pressman for the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival. Pressman had to cancel last minute due to an injury so the interview was conducted to a live class but Pressman was present virtually. Pressman’s name may not jump out to the average genre fan but he was instrumental in jump starting many young careers, such as Oliver Stone, (Talk Radio, 1988), David G. Green (Undertow, 2004), James Marsh (The King, 2005), Brian De Palma (Sisters, 1973 along with the Douglas Buck same titled remake in 1996), Terrence Malick (Badlands, 1973), Mary Harron’s American Psycho, 2000), Sam Raimi (Crimewave, 1985), and Kathyrn Bigelow (Blue Steel, 1990). On top of these great films Pressman produced weird offbeat films, like the seminal Yuletide horror Christmas Evil (Lewis Jackson, 1980), the SF film Cherry 2000 (Steven De Jarnatt, 1987), Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (1992), the notorious 1996 H.G. Wells remake The Island of Dr. Moreau, commenced by Richard Stanley, who was then ousted and replaced by John Frankenheimer, Conan the Barbarian (John Milius, 1984), the wonderful love song to Phantom of Paradise, the documentary Phantom of Winnipeg (2018), the Jewish blaxploitation charmer The Hebrew Hammer (Jonathan Kesselman, 2003), the bizarre fetish film Love Object (Robert Parigi, 2003), Larry Fessenden’s under-rated Wendigo (2001), the Crow films, Scorsese’s Wall Street (1987), and many others (over 90 credits spanning seven decades). Awesome. Anyone interested in researching Pressman’s brilliant career will find an avalanche of primary material in the Edward R. Pressman Collection. Condolences to his family. R.I.P. Mr. Pressman.
The Italian superstar Gina Lollobrigida has died at age 95. For people of my parent’s generation Gina Lollobrigida was a source of pride, a stunningly beautiful woman who became a star, and sex symbol, but who always retained an air of royalty and dignity. Once dubbed “the most beautiful women in the world” (though she has lots of competition in Italy, by actresses such as Sophia Loren, Sylvana Mangano, Claudia Cardinale, Monica Vitti, Stefania Sandrelli, Ornella Mutti, Monica Bellucci, and others!) Gina was one of the first Italian actresses to make it big in Hollywood, when Howard Hughes (who was madly in love with her) signed her to a multi-picture deal in 1950. Her best films were Beat the Devil, (1953, John Huston) where she showed a comic touch alongside Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre and Jennifer Jones (what a cast!), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956, with Anthony Quinn as Quasimodo), Topaz (1956, by Sir Carol Reed), Woman of Straw (1964,Basil Dearden, starring Sean Connery), The Law (1959, Jules Dassin, opposite the wonderful Pierre Brasseur of Les Yeux sans visage, and Marcello Mastroianni), The Unfaithfuls (1953, co-directed by the great Mario Monicelli and Steno), Solomon and Sheba (1959, dir. King Vidor), and Bread, Love and Dreams (1953, Luigi Comencini, opposite matinee idol turned director Vittorio De Sica). Perhaps not as great an actress as Anna Magnani, Monica Vitti, Alida Valli or Stefania Sandrelli, but there were few actresses who epitomized big screen glamour and beauty more than Gina. RIP.
The Cannes Film Festival is scheduled for May 16 through May 27, 2023; and, as usual, there is anticipation for the kinds of works that might gain the attention of its accomplished judges. Past judges have included Luis Bunuel, Andre Bazin, Dolores Del Rio, George Stevens, Henry Miller, Francois Truffaut, Ousmane Sembene, Anthony Burgess, Mario Vargas Llosa, Raul Ruiz, Luc Besson, Toni Morrison, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Rebecca Hall. The Golden Palm—the Palme d’or, named for the coat of arms of the city of Cannes on the French Riviera—is the most prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival; and in 2022 it was given to Triangle of Sadness, a satire of fame and wealth focusing on the survival of a luxury cruise disaster, and featuring actors Charlbi Dean Kriek and Woody Harrelson, and directed by filmmaker Ruben Östlund, who had won the award in 2017 for his art world portrait, The Square, starring Claes Bang as a museum curator whose sophistication and success are sabotaged by a lapse in judgement. The film The Square suggests the limits of attempting to make art relevant – the issues roiling outside the museum or theatre world are not easy to control.
A visit to Cannes to see pleasing and provocative motion pictures is one of the highlights of the year for resourceful film lovers. The Cannes Festival began in 1939, and its attendees were welcomed to international cinema in a beautiful location with fanfare and elegant parties, despite the threatening atmosphere of military conflict (Hitler and Mussolini had interfered with another festival, and an early September 1939 declaration of war delayed aspects of this one); and after the war’s end, Cannes began anew in 1946. Black Orpheus won the Palme d’Or in 1959, La Dolce Vita in 1960, and The Leopard in 1963. Taxi Driver won it in 1978, The Mission in 1986, and Wild at Heart in 1990. The rest, as they say, is history; and registration for the official selections for 2023 is now open. Of course, Cannes is one of many significant festivals, part of a contemporary film culture that includes technical skills, business trade, and aesthetic theory; theatrical screenings, television, and digital streaming; and commentary and reviews in books and periodicals as well as the most ordinary conversations.
Film festivals offer the opportunity to celebrate the appeal of cinema beyond box office receipts: art; and the origins of festivals may be found in the film appreciation clubs of the 1920s that affirmed serious work and sought to articulate the unique qualities of motion pictures—and the ability of films to recharge the possibilities for new perceptions as they provided both novel and mundane objects of consideration. However, these days, the recognition and recommendations of international festivals are used to buttress the reputations of films for commercial purposes (the complexities of our human existence!). Film lovers are there and so are film marketers—sometimes in the same body. Before the Cannes Film Festival in May, there will be the Sundance Film Festival January 20 – 30, 2023; the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, January 25 – February 5, 2023; the Berlin International Film Festival February 16 – 26, 2023; the South by Southwest Conference and Festival March 10 – 19, 2023; the Istanbul Film Festival April 7 – 18, 2023; and the Harlem International Film Festival May 18 – 28, 2023. The festivals will allow for the introduction to new talent and the ongoing exploration of established masters.
Once the parade of celebrity and contemplation and controversy is finished at this year’s Cannes festival, many will turn their eyes to other places, other premieres: The Tribeca Film Festival is from June 7 through June18, 2023; and the Jerusalem Film Festival is July 13 – 23, 2023; the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada July 13 – August 2, 2023; the Zurich Film Festival September 28 – October 8, 2023; the Adelaide Film Festival in Australia October 18 – 29, 2023; and the Stockholm International Film Festival November 8 – 19, 2023. One can find festivals devoted to particular cultures and orientations. They will open windows to wander and wonder. (Daniel Garrett)
The great Canadian multi-medium artist Michael Snow died on January 5th, 2023 at the age of 94. Born in Toronto, Snow was a giant in the field of experimental cinema, which he helped scale to soaring heights in the 1960s with fellow contemporary filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, Tony Conrad, Kurt Kren, Standish Lawder, (his wife of many years) Joyce Wieland, and others. Snow’s films were infused with his equal talents in other arts, being a proficient musician, sculptor, painter and photographer. Often contrasted to Brakhage’s more emotive and impressionist style, Snow excelled in pushing the technical and formalist parameters of cinema, culminating in such masterstrokes as Standard Time (1967), Wavelength (1967), La Region Centrale (1971), One Second in Montreal (1969), (Back and Forth (1969), Breakfast (Table Top Dolly) (1976) and his last film, a condensed redux of his moving camera masterpiece La Region Centrale, Cityscape (2019). Wavelength is a cornerstone of one of our foundational Film Studies classes where I teach at Concordia University and continues to provoke, frustrate and inspire (not always in equal measure) students till this day. I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Snow along with colleague André Habib back in 2002 when he was an invited guest of the 2002 Festival International Nouveau Cinéma Nouveaux Médias (FCMM). You can read the interview (and other essays collected in our Michael Snow Dossier) on Offscreen.
Another Italian legend leaves us, at age 83. Ruggero Deodato (1939-Dec. 29, 2022) was no doubt one of the most divisive and controversial Italian directors of his contemporaries but still leaves an undeniably important legacy, if only for Cannibal Holocaust, Cut and Run, Jungle Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park. He remained active as a spokesperson of his generation, frequently appearing on DVD and Blu Ray features as an interviewee and commentator. Is there a film more out of step with today’s social climate than Cannibal Holocaust? And yet, although it is rarely viewed by mainstream audiences in today’s climate, it remains an explosive (and highly influential) blend of mondo, mockumentary, jungle epic, Third World expose, horror, snuff film and disingenuous social commentary.
CALL FOR PAPERS 2023
Conference at New York University: Friday, May 26 th – Sunday, May 28th
The annual Music and the Moving Image Conference invites abstracts for paper presentations that explore the relationship between the vast universe of moving images (film, television, streaming media, video games, and advertisements) and that of music and sound. We encourage submissions from scholars and practitioners, as well as from multidisciplinary teams that have pooled their knowledge to solve problems or to develop new perspectives regarding the relationship between music and moving images. Abstracts will be selected based on their originality, relevance, significance, and clarity of presentation.
➢ Paper Abstract: (up to 250 words) should be submitted no later than December 16, 2022, via this link: https://form.jotform.com/222984255845164
Keynote Speaker: Kathryn Bostic
Kathryn Bostic is a composer and artist known for her work on award-winning films, TV, and live theater, including scores for Clemency (2019) and the Emmy-nominated films Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021) and Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019). Songwriter, pianist and vocalist, Bostic is the recipient of the Sundance Institute/Time Warner Fellowship, and Best Music in Film by the African American Film Critics Association. In 2016 she became the first female African American score composer to join the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Keynote Panel: The Role of Screen Music in the Music Theory Classroom
Moderator: Frank Lehman (Tufts Univ)
Panelists: Julianne Grasso (Florida State Univ), Sarah Louden (New York Univ), Táhirih Motazedian (Vassar College), and Scott Murphy (Univ of Kansas).
James Mc Glynn: Royal Holloway, University of London (“The Adaptation of Narrative and Musical Source Material in HBO’s Watchmen” in After Midnight: Analysing the Post-Watchmen Sequels) — Táhirih Motazedian: Vassar College (Key Constellations: Interpreting Tonality in Film [forthcoming, Univ. of California Press]) — John Richardson: University of Turku (An Eye for Music: Popular Music and the Audiovisual Surreal [Oxford Univ. Press]) — Ron Sadoff: New York University (The Moon and the Son / co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound) — Katherine Spring: Wilfrid Laurier University (Saying It With Songs: Popular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema [Oxford Univ. Press]).
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This year’s conference will run for three days, from Friday, May 26th – Sunday, May 28th, 2023 with sessions until Sunday evening. The conference will run prior to the NYU Film Scoring Workshop in Memory of Buddy Baker (May 29th – June 9th, 2023).
Email [email protected] for more information.
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I am absolutely floored by the news that Jeff Barnaby has died at the age of 46, from a year-long battle with cancer. Just last week I mentioned to my classes that Jeff Barnaby was coming to Concordia University (to which he is an alumni) on October 26 to present his film Blood Quantum. My students would have loved his honest views on life. What a terrible loss, for his family (wife and son) and the world of cinema. Barnaby directed two striking feature films, Blood Quantum in 2019 and his debut feature in 2013 Rhymes for Young Ghouls. His legacy also includes some stunning short films, namely the political SF film File Under Miscellaneous (2010), Colony (2007) and Cherry English (2004). All his works were laced with political and social commentary from the perspective of his Indigenous Mi’kmaq roots. Barnaby grew up on the Listuguj reserve in Quebec, Canada and his films never shied from delivering strident political commentary along with his stated love of genre cinema. His films were a potent blend of entertainment and commentary. It is so sad that the nature of making films in Canada is at it is, to the point where someone as talented as Barnaby with as much to say as he did only had the chance to make two features since his first short film in 2004. A frustration which Barnaby had not been shy to talk about on social media. Offscreen wishes our deepest condolences to his family, his community and his fans.