Opening Night

Rosemarys Baby John Cassavetes

The 1980s proved a difficult time for many notable American directors of the 1960s and 70s. Sure, filmmakers like Altman and Coppola came out on the other side of the decade with renewed vigor, and at least one – Scorsese – even managed to arguably realize some of the most interesting work of his career. But for others, the 1980s were a lost and endless horizon of work that was hard to come by compounded by life circumstances that were even harder to endure. Difficult men who lived hard and felt deeply now found themselves confronted with their most profound personal and professional limitations. After trying to reform himself in the wake of drug addiction and a damaged reputation, Hal Ashby died of pancreatic cancer in December 1988. Just over a month later, renowned independent filmmaker, theater director, writer, and actor John Cassavetes passed away of cirrhosis of the liver. Cassavetes was supposed to die five years earlier, when he received a prognosis that he had only six months to live. Faced with almost certain death, Cassavetes composed a wrenching, beautiful and deeply personal swan song titled Love Streams about an aging alcoholic socialite reconnecting with his estranged sister, played by his wife Gena Rowlands. The dramatist would produce another film (Big Trouble, which he disowned) and stage a play after outlasting his doctor’s prediction, but Love Streams remains Cassavetes’ decisive magnum opus, both a thematic summation of his career in film and an indication of how his lifelong approach to filmmaking […]

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Echoing throughout the concrete of the subway between Stadtmitte and Potsdamer Platz is a young man slamming out a guitar chord like it owes him money and singing out “I want to see the movies of my dreams.” His droning twang sounds more like it was unearthed from the soil of North Carolina, but the Euro coins in his case and the writing on the wall prove he’s in Berlin. His sentiment is a powerful and timely one as the red signs everywhere shout out the presence of the Berlin International Film Festival. Just a dozen feet above that young man’s head is the shuffle of mud-covered feet swishing through snow as more of it falls on the ground. An ice cream parlor is inexplicably still open and doing good business nearby. It’s 21 degrees outside, but it feels like 8, and that creates a kind of energy. People are moving quickly to both to keep up with the lazy first day rush and to keep their bits from freezing off. Maybe that will make getting into a darkened (and heated) theater all the sweeter. At least that’s the hope on the largely movie-less, paper work-heavy start to the Berlinale.

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Culture Warrior

As much as I admire the incomparable films made during the era, New Hollywood (the term referring to innovative, risk-taking films made funded by studios from the mid-60s to the mid-70s) is a title that I find a bit problematic. The words “New Hollywood” better characterize the era that came after what the moniker traditionally refers to. Think about it: if “Old” or “Classical” Hollywood refers to the time period that stretches roughly from 1930 to 1960 when the studios as an industry maintained such an organized and regimented domination over and erasure of any other potential conception over what a film playing in any normal movie theater could be, then if we refer to the time period from roughly 1977 to now “New Hollywood,” the term then appropriately signifies a new manifestation of the old: regimentation, predictability, and limitation of expression. Where Old Hollywood studios would produce dozens of films of the same genre, New Hollywood (as I’m appropriating the term) could acutely describe the studios’ comparably stratified output of sequels, remakes, etc. What we traditionally understand to be New Hollywood was not so much its own monolithic era in Hollywood’s legacy, but a brief, strange, and wonderful lapse between two modes of Hollywood filmmaking that have dominated the industry’s history.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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