Category:film festivals

My apologies for mistakenly calling the explorateurs urbains of La Mexicaine de Perforation cataphiles. In an interview on NPR, filmmaker Lazar Kunsman, the group's spokesMexicain, explained that cataphiles are "more like nerds," who just wander around underground without doing anything. Explorateurs, meanwhile, are seeking to produce new forms of creative expression, to create a viable, engaging alternative to the sterile, mainstream culture found aboveground.

So next time you run into a guy in the catacombs, just ask, "Why the hell did Harvey sit on Hero for so long?"

NPR interview with La Mexicaine de Perforation [audio posted after 1pm EST]
Previous subterranean cinema posts, including a partial film programme

What's with all the film festivals this time of year (Venice, Telluride, Toronto, NY, American Film Renaissance)? If you haven't heard of that last one, [Their slogan: "Doing films the right way"] for heaven's sake don't tell anyone; they'll know you're not one of them.

AFR is a conservative film festival full of true believers; Bryan Curtis, who must've drawn the short festival coverage straw over at Slate, does a bangup job of unpacking the messages of this obscure, oppressed, voiceless underclass.

After laughing endlessly at cruel Michael Moore fat jokes, Curtis reports how the crowd grew uneasy and confused at David Balsiger's screening. The head of Grizzly Adams productions, Balsiger greenlighted his company's latest film, on George Bush's faith, after commissioning Gallup polls on what's hot with big swaths of Middle America. Yay, Capitalism? Wha? You'd think these people hadn't seen Austin Powers.

Sundance for Republicans [Bryan Curtis, Slate]
American Film Renaissance [what, no invocation?]
Grizzly Adams film and television

September 13, 2004

Tony Scott's first report from Toronto really gives you a feel for the festival's sprawl and cinematic frenzy, where you feel like you're missing movies more than watching them. Meanwhile, he only mentions one film, and he mentions the hell out of it: Gunner Palace, Mike Tucker and Petra Epperlein's documentary about US soldiers' lives in Baghad. Here's a taste:

Gunner Palace is so startling because it suggests - it shows - just how complicated the reality of this war has been. It may not change your mind, but it will certainly deepen your perception and challenge your assumptions, whatever they may be. I hope "Gunner Palace" makes its way quickly from this festival to American theaters, because it is not a movie anyone should miss.
Sure, but did you like it?

Sex, War, and Hype at Toronto Festival of Films [A.O. Scott, NYT]
See a trailer and clips at

The Guardian's Jon Henley talks with members of La Mexicaine de Perforation, the urban explorers group who built and operated a cinema in a 4,000-sf uncharted quarry 60 feet under the Place de Chaillot in Paris. They called the cinema Les Arenes de Chaillot.

During the seven-week season, the Mexicans screened films by "Chinese and Korean directors but also Alex Proyas' Dark City, Coppola's Rumble Fish, David Lynch's Eraserhead, and Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Clandestine group reveals how it built its cinema beneath the city [Guardian UK]

Holy Moley, damn, wow, whoa, this is possibly the coolest thing I've ever heard: a full-scale modern movie theater was discovered in an uncharted underground amphitheater carved out of the catacombs of Paris. It's near Trocadero, the Palais de Tokyo, and the Cinematheque.

After French police stumbled across it during a training exercise, they returned with officials from the electric company, only to find the power and phone lines had been cut. A note on the floor read, "Do not try to find us."

Police found tapes (helas, not prints) of "a wide variety of films, including 1950s film noir classics and more recent thrillers." Check back for a detailed program; I'm on the story.
According to radio interviews, a "cataphile" group called the Perforating Mexicans is claiming responsibility for the cinema. Don't worry, the PM said, there are "a dozen more where that one came from." [via BoingBoing]

In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground cinema [Guardian UK]

[update: RTL Radio didn't speak with a Perforating Mexicans member, but with Patrick Alt [sic, his name's Saletta], an author/photographer and expert on the catacombs. His 1990 book, "A la dÈcouverte des souterrains de Paris," ("Discovering the Paris Underground") is apparently a bible of explorateurs urbains.

They also spoke to director Lazar Kunsman, whose short films were screened in the cinema. He's a friend of the group, known in French as "La Mexicaine de Perforation." The cinema, he claimed, was part of a "multiplexe," known as "Les ArËnes de Chaillot," {The Chaillot Arenas). Still no specifics on the programming choices, and Kunsman doesn't show up anywhere in the Monde Googlique.

Un cinÈma souterrain a ÈtÈ dÈcouvert [RTL Radio, in French, audio, too]
Another article mentioning "Alt"/Saletta [Agence France Presse, in English]
Sexy underground photos of Paris's Sewer Museum []]

[10/3 update: Read more on the meaning behind "La Mexicaine de Perforation"]

And Kiarostami said editing was irrelevant. The Observer's Andrew Anthony calls Michael Moore "arguably the most ideological and emotive editor since Sergei Eisenstein," about as high as praise can get for a maker of agitprop. He points to Farenheit 9/11's powerful juxtaposition of criticism and humor, raw and manufactured images and predicts it could make an unprecedented "historic difference."

But Moore, it seems, not only exaggerates or sometimes ignores inconvenient facts, he's insufferably self-aggrandizing and unpopular with more refined movie folk; he has bodyguards and a limo, and sends his kid to private school. To the ideologically pure--the armchair Marxist readership of the Observer, presumably--he's a hypocrite whose buzz-making and popularity are to be barely tolerated.

Hey, I hate Moore as much as the next guy, but it is exactly the unfettered pursuit of unadulterated dogma that got us in this mess (pick your mess; this isn't a bloghdad post). And besides, how seriously can Anthony's Man of The People criticism be taken when it's being made in the lobby of the Majestic?

[via greencine, who's got an excellent collection of Cannes wrapup coverage. ]


I feel the same way about Michael Moore's masterful PR march to the Palme d'Or as Patrick Lang, ex-Pentagon Middle East intelligence chief feels about how Cheney & co were utterly duped by the Iranian intelligence agency and their frontman, Ahmed Chalabi:

"[It was] one of the most sophisticated and successful intelligence [insert 'buzz-generating' here] operations in history... I'm a spook. I appreciate good work. This was good work."

May 19, 2004

Cannes, do it yourself

kiarostami_five_still.jpgFrom J. Hoberman's halftime report from Cannes comes this description of Abbas Kiarostami's latest film: "[the] remarkably austere Five (after the number of shots) is a DV landscape study that might have been produced by a talented epigone of American minimalist Ernie Gehr."

In Five, the director says, "an entire world is revealed to us. It's a work that approaches poetry, painting. It let me escape from the obligation of narration and of the slavery of mise en scËne." [Kiarostami harshes on editing and praises the real creative action of shooting in an interview with Le Monde. Heady stuff, in French.]

Interesting, because the Gehr comparison aims squarely at art, not cinema; and "talented" or no, don't look up epigone if you're a fan.

Meanwhile, screening in Un Certain Regard is another Kiarostami film, 10 on Ten, his reflections on various elements of filmmaking like camera, screenplay, and locations [let me guess, slavery and obligation?]

It's as if he's trying to find out just how little is required to shoot a viable film. Ten was shot almost entirely with two DV cameras mounted on a taxi cab dash. And the film before that, ABC Africa, was a DV doc shot on a location scouting visit to an AIDS clinic.

Also a hit at Cannes this year is Tarnation, the most famously cheap movie since El Mariachi. Jonathan Caouette reveals his secret (note: that he used iMovie is no secret; it's the hook, yo) in the Guardian: "Making a movie is not as difficult as it is made out to be. Hopefully this will be a catalyst for people who didn't have a voice before to go out and make a movie." Check out the Tarnation weblog at Indiewire, which has launched more excellent weblogs in a month than some would-be empires do in a whole year.

Once you've made your DV film all by yourself, you can distribute it, too. The Times reports on the emerging trend of self-produced and distributed DVDs. The economics are increasingly attractive, especially for a wide array of specialized markets like fans of poetry or mountainboarding. One company not mentioned that should be: the mighty fine-looking small-run packaging system at Jewelboxing, brought to you by the design-savvy Coudal Partners.

In the last couple of weeks, I've decided to shoot a fourth short film, which may be part of the Souvenir Series, or may not. We'll see. It was not in the original outline of the series, and it's out of the order I'd planned to shoot them, but the opportunity and idea presented themselves so clearly, I've decided to at least get it shot, then see where to take it.

Long story short, it's a reconceiving of the baptism/massacre sequence from Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. The scene is a classic, not only of storytelling and dramatic contrast, but of editing as well.

While it has the immediate feel of intercutting--jumping back and forth between simultaneous events--as this Yale film analysis site where you can watch (most of) the sequence points out, it's unlikely that all the other mafia dons in NYC were actually assassinated at the same instant. They call it montage.

Frankly, I always thought they were concurrent events. The baptism scene provides a sense of linear time that is utterly absent from, say, Jennifer Beals' rehearsal/welding scenes in Flashdance. (Gimme a break, she was on The Daily Show last night.)

Anyway, Seeing as how the baby in that scene was a weeks-old Sofia Coppola, and seeing as how I have a weeks-old baby myself now, and seeing as how I'm gonna be hanging out with the Coppolas tonight at a MoMA Film Department benefit, I thought I'd better start shooting.

I'm co-chairman of this gig tonight at MoMA, An Evening With Sofia Coppola. I was going to write my speech, but in the spirit of the director, I'm going totally improv. Then I'm going to kiss every ass I can.

In the mean time, Sofia will show clips of and discuss her work with Elvis Mitchell. Look for pics and a making-of doc later.

Related: More from An Evening With Sofia Coppola

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Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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Category: film festivals

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