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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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Episode #90 - Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (Ms. 45)

"I love the sensory democracy of body horror. It strips everything except the fact we all have bodies, and bodies can hurt."

Cinema is not just watching: it's shivering, sweating, and screaming. Those aspects of the moves are part of what drives Australian film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas. The co-editor of Senses of Cinema discusses her interest in horror films through a number of multimedia projects from radio to image collages on Twitter. They also dive deep on her books on rape-revenge, Dario Argento's Suspria, and now her latest on Abel Ferrara's exploitation classic, Ms. 45...or does the film actually belong to its lead actress Zoë Lund? The two look at the unique tension between director and performer, and how this surprisingly complex film has become an icon for feminist horror buffs.

0:00-2:51 Opening 
3:44-10:20 Establishing Shots — Song to Song
11:06-53:39 Deep Focus — Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
54:47-57:04 Sponsorship Section
58:15-1:25:52 Double Exposure — Ms. 45 (Abel Ferrara and Zoë Lund)
1:25:59-1:27:47 Close / Outtake
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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Episode #89 - Laya Maheshwari (Sholay)

"There's a lot of contextual information at film festivals that's really interesting...festivals are so often a tool for someone in power."

What does cinephilia look like when your local theaters are not filled with Hollywood's spectacle driven blockbusters, but films that feature action, romance, and musical numbers all at the same time? And how does that change the way you look at art cinema or festivals in general? Mumbai film critic Laya Maheshwari has thought about his own views for much of his career, and now shares those experiences with Peter. From the international travel to festivals both in Europe and elsewhere (including North Korea), to the continually evolving industry of Bollywood, Laya provides insights that are often missed from the perspective of the West, and grapples with what it means to be both a cinephile and yet often turn to only writing about what occurs locally. The two top it off with a look at one of the all time (no country specification needed) great films: Sholay. How did this masala film become the defining phenomenon as it has? 

0:00-2:36 Opening 
3:46-9:36 Establishing Shots — At Long Last Love
10:22-1:14:40 Deep Focus — Laya Maheshwari
1:15:29-1:17:28 Sponsorship Section
1:18:30-1:42:20 Double Exposure — Sholay (Ramesh Sippy)
1:42:29-1:44:05 Close 
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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Charles Cohen and KCET Classics

"There are people who collect art. I like to think I collect art films."

You can get a panoramic view of Los Angeles from the office of Charles Cohen, a real estate mogul who about a decade ago returned to his true passion for cinema. But Cohen does not need to impress with optics: his commitment to restoration and exhibition of silent films, Classical Hollywood, art cinema, and new foreign language works speaks for itself. With a new theater in New York on the way, Cohen has also taken a handful of the titles from his expanding cinema library and is now presenting them on public television through KCET. In this roundtable interview at the Pacific Design Center, Cohen discusses his background and continuing plans to develop cinephilia, and what separates him from the other financial giants whose role in film development alongside their political affiliations has many asking questions about who makes what we watch.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Episode #88 - Jake Mulligan (Hail The Conquering Hero)

"It really comes down to not what needs to be covered, but what do I want to say? What has provoked and created the strongest reaction?"


Boston-bred and born guest Jake Mulligan has always been something of a kindred spirit with Peter. Not just in terms of their approach to aesthetics, but also how and what they see the goal of film criticism can be. So it was perhaps inevitable that they would turn their interview into something of a state of the union in how and what writers should be doing when it comes to analyzing films and film culture. Jake recalls his entry into cinema through the bro film canon and how his path toward journalism has shaped his role in deciding what (and more importantly how) visual media should be worth covering. They then discuss how streaming and digital has affected the role that critics play, and perhaps shed some light on other alternative approaches of what is an increasingly robotic profession. But after letting out some steam, they get to the bread and butter by going deep into the political aesthetics of Preston Sturges's war time comedy, Hail The Conquering Hero, asking the very difficult question of what exactly is direction when it comes to Classical Hollywood screwball comedy.

0:00-2:37 Opening 
3:15-10:14 Establishing Shots — Charles Cohen Preview
10:59-1:16:58 Deep Focus — Jake Mulligan
1:18:00-1:46:49 Double Exposure — Hail The Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges)
1:46:53-1:49:05 Close / Outtake



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Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016 Favorites With Keith Uhlich (Part 2)

Often, we ask questions about what can cinema do. Perhaps the more important question, however, is to ask what should cinema do. As Keith Uhlich and Peter Labuza countdown their favorite media objects of 2016, this question plays out in a myriad of discussion. From the trascendence of genre to the nature of longform, to the act of describing to the disection of popular entertainment. And finally, the two enter a long debate about the nature of non-fiction and reality, as well as the very act of seeing death in cinema. What function should the camera perform, not just for us but the people who hold it? And is there something unique about art and its function in the surrounding world? Plus, former guests of the show call in with their favorite films of the year.


0:00-2:57 Opening 
2:57-27:45 Picks for #5
29:06-49:34 Picks for #4
49:34-1:08:04 Picks for #3
1:09:47-1:12:29 Sponsorship Section
1:13-40-1:39:20 Picks for #2
1:40:40-2:11:53 Picks for #1
2:11:53-2:13:37 Closing Thoughts
2:13:47-2:15:27 Close / Outtake
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Favorites With Keith Uhlich (Part 1)

In times of crisis, sometimes the easy answer is to escape to the cinema. But the movies of 2016 did not necessarily bring escape, whether it was the mortgage crisis in Texas, homophobia in Miami, or misogyny in Montana. But in these cinematic works of art, some relief or euphoria can transform real life into something more bareable (or if you're Rob Zombie, even more screwed up). Keith Uhlich joins the podcast for his 5th time to countdown the favorites of 2016. Discussions range from the nature of experimental cinema, to the nature of historical fact, to what it means to go past idenity and into specificity. Plus, Peter and Keith list their favorites repertory discoveries of the year.

0:00-3:20 Opening 
3:20-22:39 Picks for #10
22:39-39:42 Picks for #9
39:42-1:13:06 Picks for #8
1:13:53-1:16:12 Sponsorship Section
1:17-00-1:36:26 Picks for #7
1:36:26-1:57:00 Picks for #6
1:57:00-2:10:33 Favorite Repertory Picks of 2016
2:10:51-2:12:46 Close / Outtake
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