In the Kingdom of G

In the film world of the 20th century, there were not too many animators who made the transition to live action feature film directing. Certainly Frank Tashlin was one of the most famous, going from Porky Pig and Daffy Duck cartoon shorts to manic pop culture comedies like The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) and Hollywood or Bust (1956). Another rare exception was George Pal, who became famous for his Puppetoon shorts for Paramount before establishing himself as a director of fantasy features such as Tom Thumb (1958) and The Time Machine (1960). It is far easier to name more contemporary filmmakers like Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and Brad Bird,  all of whom graduated from cartoons to live-action features successfully. The above are all artists who worked in the commercial cinema but, if you are talking about art cinema, the list is much smaller and Polish animator Walerian Borowczyk should be in the top slot. Goto, Island of Love (1969, Polish title: Goto, I’ile d’amour), his feature film debut, is a fascinating achievement that successfully brings the avant-garde sensibilities of his animated shorts to a live action feature.

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Street Corner Confessions

Man-on-the-street interviews can often be unexpectedly hilarious, insightful or surprising if the interviewer is a prankster like Triumph The Insult Comic Dog or a non-traditional reporter such as an anthropologist, professional prostitute or ….a pair of nuns. The latter, in fact, are showcased in the 1968 documentary, Inquiring Nuns, which is not an oddball stunt but a sincere attempt to capture some honest responses about the human condition via two unlikely interviewers. It was produced by Kartemquin Films, the non-profit documentary collective that was founded in 1966 in Chicago by Gordon Quinn, Jerry Temaner and Stan Karter and has produced such acclaimed work as Hoop Dreams (1995), Vietnam, Long Time Coming (1998), the PBS miniseries The New Americans (2004) and The Interrupters (2011). Continue reading

Le Joli Mai and more at the Virginia Film Festival (VFF), 2013

Virginia Film Festival 2013 posterNow in its 26th year, the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville might not enjoy the high profile of Sundance or Telluride but that’s actually to its credit. While the latter festivals continue to introduce important new filmmakers and work to audiences, the media attention and crowds they attract can often be exhausting and even competitive for attendees trying to get into a select screening. That is not yet the case with VFF which continues to take a relaxed, laid back approach to film festivals despite an ambitious schedule of almost 100 screenings. Very rarely do you have to contend with long lines or sold-out shows. Nor do you often encounter the entertainment press getting priority treatment or trying to impress you with celebrity name-dropping in cellphone conversations that you can’t avoid at other major film industry events.    Continue reading