Sunday, October 15, 2017

Boundaries of Reality: New Non-Fiction With Agnès Varda, JR, and Theo Anthony

"An image is just a point to explore reality and memory."

As this podcast has explored, the limits of non-fiction have been continually pushed and pulled by daring filmmakers who refuse to understand the limits of what they can do. This week looks at two new releases from three creators asking questions of space, memory, history, and often themselves. First of all, Peter sits down with legendary French New Wave filmmaker Agnès Varda to discuss her new film, Visage Villages (in English, Faces Places), alongside her co-conspirator, the elusive street artist known as JR. They discuss the ins and outs of collaboration when their work ethics seemingly clash, the personalities they present on screen, and the "work" of their images. Then, Peter meets up with Baltimore filmmaker Theo Anthony to dissect his bold directorial debut, Rat Film. They discuss the alien style of the film and its interest in both the collection of data and the relation of its human subjects, all while asking how a film can provoke emotion and ideas in a diversity of ways without ever posing obvious solutions.

0:00-5:07 Opening
6:05-29:58 Agnès Varda and JR (Visage Villages)
30:43-35:22 Sponsorship Section
36:22-1:00:56 Theo Anthony (Rat Film)
1:01:02-1:02:46 Close / Outtake

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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Episode #96 - Laura Major (Heaven Can Wait)

"Our aim for a lot of preservation—the standard goal—is to make it look
how it was seen before."

If more and more people are interested in shooting on film and projecting on film, there's one crucial step in between: how does film get from camera to screen? Through a lab obviously. But what does the lab do? Laura Major has been a staple at the Maryland based Colorlab for a number of years, helping the studio produce new 35mm negatives and positives of documentaries, experimental films, archival orphans, and more. Today, she sits down with Peter to trace out her own history from South Carolina to experimental film lover to a technician. They discuss the ins and outs of film processing and how Colorlab has integrated itself as a critical player in the future of celluloid. Finally, they dive into the Warren Beatty directed, Elaine May co-written Heaven Can Wait, a comedy built around a number of great performances and the strange odyssey that is the (now once again) Los Angeles Rams.

0:00-3:07 Opening
4:12-12:24 Establish Shots — Frederick Wiseman's Ex Libris
13:10-48:50 Deep Focus — Laua Major
50:34-53:18 Sponsorship Section
54:48-1:10:57 Double Exposure — Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty)
1:11:20-1:14:09 Close / Outtake

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Sunday, September 10, 2017

"But Who Is The Dreamer?" Twin Peaks: The Return

In a summer where blockbusters felt stale and indie films became rote, cinephilia thrived every Sunday night as David Lynch put on an 18-hour spectacle on primetime television. Twin Peaks: The Return saw the filmmaker behind Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. return to the soap opera that would in part define two decades of serialized television. He created not just a new spin on the story of Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer, but instead delved into a mystery that felt more aesthetically, narratively, and emotionally involved than any other visual story this year. As the boundaries between cinema, television, streaming, and other categories have become less defined, Twin Peaks: The Return lept past these debates to simply create an utterly singular work about the never ending battle between good and evil. To celebrate the show's culmination (and perhaps the capstone of Lynch's career), Peter invites a Roadhouse worthy group of  guests—Alison Herman of The Ringer, Scott Nye of Battleship Pretension and Criterion Cast, and Nate Fisher of Mubi Notebook—to dissect the show's use of nostalgic devices, moral dichotomies, and employment of experimental cinema techniques. Grab a coffee, watch out for the tulpas, and don't give anyone a light, we're all Twin Peaks this week on the podcast.

0:00-4:16 Opening
4:16-46:35 Discussing Twin Peaks: The Return
47:05-49:44 Sponsorship Section
50:36-1:3019 More on The Return
1:31:14-1:34:19 Close / Outtake

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Total Film-Maker: Jerry Lewis (1926-2017)


When it comes to a cinephilic appreciation of comedy, who better represented it than The Total Film-Maker, Le Roi du Crazy, the Nutty Professor? Jerry Lewis was a totem in the hall of cinephilia and with good reason. No one worked harder to create an entirely unique style of filmmaking that no one else could come close to matching—to the ire of some but to the adoration of a select few. While his collabrators—Dean Martin, Hal Wallis, Frank Tashlin, and Martin Scorsese among others—are equally legendary, it is impossible to take one's eyes off Jerry and what he did, breaking the rules in order to get the funniest of laughs. To celebrate the passing of one of the last titans of Classical Hollywood (even though he never seemed to fit it), Jaime Christley of The Village Voice and Slant Magazine joins Peter to discuss elements of what made this filmmaker so unique and why they still can't stop laughing at his gags.

0:00-3:53 Opening
3:53-32:05 Discussing Jerry Lewis
32:48-36:08 Sponsorship Section
36:56-48:39 Jerry and the Critics
48:39-1:07:48 Favorite Jerry Moments
1:08:56-1:10:51 Close / Outtake

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Episode #95 - Chicago Film Archives (American Revolution 2)

"We have an impulse to simply collect and preserve. We don't want things to disappear."

For many historians, what made the 20th century so unique from the time before was the idea of the visual, the idea that we as a society began responding to images (both still and moving) rather than text. This visual life did not just happen through Hollywood, but in films made by advertising groups, for school children, and by families across the world as we documented the world's beauties and scars. Saving a particular section of these images has become the goal of Chicago Film Archives. The institution has spent over a decade finding and saving the images that define the Great Lakes city and the surrounding area, demonstrating how visual images capture and display American life through the 20th century. In this episode, Peter sits down with multiple members of the archives (Michelle Puetz—Curator of Programming; Brian Belak—Collections Manager; Amy Belotti—Digital Collections Manager) to discuss its history and its future. They end their conversation examining one of its most prized works, American Revolution 2, in which ideology along the left becomes an increasingly impossible debate.

0:00-3:42 Opening
4:17-12:27 Establishing Shots — Blockbuster Auteurs (Dunkirk and Logan Lucky)
13:12-50:19 Deep Focus — Chicago Film Archives
50:57-54:10 Sponsorship Section
55:19-1:12:19 Double Exposure — American Revolution 2 (Howard Alk and the Film Group)
1:12:23-1:14:00 Close
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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Episode #94 - Manohla Dargis (Killer of Sheep)

"I think you have to pay attention to the object. You have to pay attention to what's in front of your eyes really clearly."

Before anything else, films are objects that present a sensorial experience. To understand how they function—as industrial products, as societal mirrors, as ideological machines—we must understand how they interact with our minds and make us think. For the five year anniversary of The Cinephiliacs, Manohla Dargis joins the cast to talk exactly that. The New York Times critic discusses her childhood movie love of watching objects without inhibition and her writing as a form of translating the way of watching films. She also chats about the past and future of the Times, and how the institutional changes have affected the practice of criticism in a digital age. Finally, Manohla and Peter examine Charles Burnett's independent masterpiece Killer of Sheep, examining how the filmmaker's stark portrayal of impoverished black life resonates to today through poetic realism. Plus, a brief chat with James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir, whose new film, The Republic, is currently streaming on MUBI.

0:00-3:09 Opening
4:23-14:00 Establishing Shots — Five Years of The Cinephiliacs
14:46-47:15 Deep Focus — Manohla Dargis
48:28-1:07:42 Sponsorship Section — An Interview with The Republic team, James N. Kienitz Wilkins and Robin Schavoir
1:09:00-1:23:28 Double Exposure — Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)
1:23:32-1:28:38 Close / Outtake
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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 2017 San Francisco Silent Film Festival


Cross-dressing air pirates, parades of mechanical dolls, directors doing their own stunts in frigid waters, and a psychological battle for the soul of Ukraine. Now attending for their third and fourth time respectively, Peter and guest Victor Morton always find a Pandora's Box of surprises at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Not so much for its relevance to today (sorry, no Age of Trump discussion here), but instead for the sheer amount of creativity and engagement with the world that can sometimes feel more thoughtful than contemporary cinema. This year they dive into films from eight countries over three decades, with a few from silent cinema's canonical directors, a couple from directors in need of major recognition, and finally some films that simply baffle for their sheer WTFness. It's another wrap up in the latest discoveries in silent cinema in the East Bay.

0:00-2:45 Opening
2:46-14:32 A Page of Madness (Teinosuke Kinugasa, Japan, 1926)
15:37-27:40 Magic & Mirth: A Tribute to David Shepard / Filibus (Mario Roncoroni, Italy, 1915)
28:36-38:09 Body & Soul (Oscar Micheaux, USA, 1925)
38:34-42:10 Sponsorship Section
43:33-54:27 A Man There Was (Victor Sjöström, Sweden, 1917)
55:09-1:06:07 Two Days (Heorhii Stabovyi, Ukraine / USSR, 1927)
1:07:07-1:16:12 The Doll (Ernst Lubitsch, Germany, 1919)
1:17:03-1:18:42 Close
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Episode #93 - Girish Shambu (Gold)

"I think there's a place for the skills that we learn as cinephiles in the world at large."

If the cinephilia of lining up on small streets of Paris and New York for obscure rare prints of art films and the auteurs of Hollywood to appreciate the wind in the trees has died with Susan Sontag, what has replaced it? This is one of many questions asked by blogger Girish Shambu in his book The New Cinephilia. In this final report from SCMS, Girish discusses his childhood in India and how he became interested in not just film but the kind of critical discourses it creates, and how he sees himself functioning within that world. The two talk about the opportunities and challenges that cinephilia faces in our current moment, both in terms of the expanding definition of media and its relation to politics. Finally, they turn their eyes toward the ever nebulous group of coy German filmmakers known as the Berlin School, and in particular, Thomas Arslan's Klondike-trekking western Gold with Phoenix star Nina Hoss.

0:00-3:03 Opening 
3:57-12:15 Establishing  Shots — A Tale of Twin Peaks
13:07-52:22 Deep Focus — Girish Shambu
53:14-56:13 Sponsorship Section
57:17-1:16:58 Double Exposure — Gold (Thomas Arslan)
1:17:03-1:18:42 Close
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

This American Life — Remembering Jonathan Demme

Jonathan Demme began his film career 50 years ago while working for Joseph Levine's production company in 1967, carving a path that resembled no other director in American film. His narrative films ranged from the grindhouse to Oscar prestige pictures to indies and more. Beyond fiction, he made documentaries about musicians and politics, music videos for the coolest bands, and a number of television episodes that gave life to the so-called writer's medium. While the word humanist gets thrown around carelessly, Demme deserved that term for the worlds his films enveloped and the generosity he showed each and every character while often creating an implied utopian vision of diversity. This special episode mourns the death of one of the great directors, as Peter invites on Jake Mulligan and Willow Maclay to discuss the multifaceted career of a director destined to cement a place in the canon. Plus, we revisit that oft-discussed director with three Double Exposure discussions with former guests. 

0:00-4:12 Opening 
4:12-43:27 Discussion with Jake Mulligan and Willow Maclay
44:34-47:26 Sponsorship Section
48:41-1:04:20 Beloved with Stephen Cone
1:05:21-1:28:18 The Truth About Charlie with Keith Uhlich
1:29:27-1:52:13 Stop Making Sense with Tim Grierson
1:52:40-1:22:02 Close
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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Episode #92 - Catherine Grant (The Headless Woman)


"If you dive in with an idea of sketchiness, 'I can see something here but I'm not quite sure,' and then go for it, you constitute things. I think it's what we always hope to do with our scholarship."

While Peter sometimes has questioned what digital cameras have wrought, there is no question that the digital revolution has changed the ways we can relate to our cinematic experiences (Exhibit A: this podcast). UK film scholar Catherine Grant has always seemed to be on the precipice of these changes. Her blog, Film Studies for Free, brought the idea of Open Access within the field to a whole array of scholars, and her pioneering work in video essays transformed the way that film scholarship can come closer to their objects of study than ever before. In this interview conducted in the heart of the annual SCMS conference, Catherine discusses her discovery of art cinema, her research on world cinema and auteurism in the digital age, and the role that these new visual tools have changed the way she approaches cinema. They top off their conversation by turning to The Headless Woman and how Argentine director Lucrecia Martel creates a hyper-attentive spectator in the most breathtaking drama of recent memory. 

0:00-3:26 Opening 
4:25-9:14 Establishing Shots — Preview of "This American Life — Jonathan Demme"
9:59-1:00:05 Deep Focus — Catherine Grant
1:00:55-1:03:11 Sponsorship Section
1:04:09-1:1:39 Double Exposure — The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
1:19:43-1:22:02 Close / Outtake
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Episode #91 - Marsha Gordon (The Steel Helmet)

"I've always felt the superior methodology [of media studies] draws on what is relevant and material and explores all these dimensions."

You can learn a lot about the person behind a camera by watching what he saw in front. But you can learn so much more when you explore the short stories he wrote, the ideas he scribbled down, the cartoon drawings he made, the FBI memos investigating him, and the amateur footage of death he shot while serving in World War II. Film scholar Marsha Gordon has done exactly that in her extraordinary new work, Film is Like A Battleground: Sam Fuller's War Movies. In this podcast, Marsha discusses her impulses to explore both the center of Hollywood and the very margins of filmmaking practices with her research on orphan films. They dissect the role that these seemingly forgotten films have shown a diversity of cultural practices throughout the 20th century. And then they dive head onto the cigar-chomping auteur, examining what it meant to be a political filmmaker as opposed to making films that feature politics statements. They end their conversation by looking at Fuller's The Steel Helmet, a complex Korean war portrayal of men not as heroes but as flawed individuals, fighting for dignity in a situation that provides none.

0:00-3:39 Opening 
3:44-14:50 Establishing Shots — Old Guests, New Material (Mark Harris's Five Came Back; James Gray's The Lost City of Z)
15:35-57:29 Deep Focus — Marsha Gordon
58:33-1:00:30 Sponsorship Section
1:01:39-1:18:03 Double Exposure — The Steel Helmet (Sam Fuller)
1:18:09-1:19:46 Close
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