Thursday, July 20, 2017

A CONVERSATION WITH LUC BESSON AT THE EGYPTIAN THEATRE, by Désirée Hostettler

From July 14 to 19, 2017, the American Cinematheque revisited a selection of Luc Besson’s films, and also hosted a special members-only advanced screening of his new movie, Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets. Such a series, where the movies from one specific director are being shown, always helps put his or her work into perspective and Luc Besson is among the directors who have a very apparent signature style. His movies are marked by strong female characters, climactic action scenes, amazing visuals, and tons of humor.

Luc Besson photographed by Silvia Schablowski

On July 16, between the screenings of
The Professional and La Femme Nikita, Luc Besson appeared for discussion with Today Show entertainment interviewer David Karger. The conversation focused on his earlier work, especially the films that were screened during the Cinematheque’s retrospective, yet the upcoming movie Valerian could, of course, not be ignored.

Friday, June 30, 2017

MATTHEW MODINE’S MEMOIR ON FULL METAL JACKET by Jim Hemphill

A little past the midpoint of Matthew Modine’s extraordinarily entertaining audiobook Full Metal Jacket Diary, the actor takes a break from shooting Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film to audition for another project, Alan J. Pakula’s Orphans. Practically the second Modine walks into the room, Pakula asks excitedly, “What’s he like?” “He,” of course, is Kubrick, one of the greatest and most enigmatic directors in the history of movies, and it’s a testament to his legend that even other famous directors like Pakula were and are starving for information about his process. That goes double for a not-so-famous director like myself; ever since I became obsessed with Kubrick at the age of nine, I’ve eagerly consumed every scrap of behind-the-scenes documentation that I could find on his productions.


Not that there’s been a whole lot — aside from sporadic technical articles in magazines like American Cinematographer and occasional interviews in major magazines like Rolling Stone and Playboy, during Kubrick’s lifetime the amount of reliable press coverage on him and his films was ridiculously sparse when compared to other directors of his stature. There were occasional glimpses behind the curtain, like his daughter Vivian’s short documentary on the making of The Shining, which I studied frame by frame like it was the Zapruder film, and after Kubrick passed away in 1999 some of his collaborators started to open up a bit in documentaries, articles and books. Yet even now the literature is relatively light, to the point that whenever something like the Vanity Fair article on the making of Eyes Wide Shut pops up I devour it like a drunk David Hasselhoff going after a cheeseburger.

I’m not sure why Kubrick was so secretive about his process, or why his collaborators were so tight-lipped. A few months ago I interviewed Ryan O’Neal for a Filmmaker magazine piece I was writing on the making of Barry Lyndon and he told me, “Stanley begged us never to talk about him.” (Luckily, O’Neal then gleefully proceeded to spill the beans.) Whatever the reason, Kubrick’s tight control over the flow of information from his sets has only made me and thousands of other filmmakers and fans all the more desperate to know how he achieved his effects, and why.

Thankfully, Matthew Modine kept a detailed journal of his experiences shooting Full Metal Jacket in 1985 and 1986, and he has made his observations available in a variety of media. The diary was first published as a limited edition book in 2005, and seven years later Modine released an interactive iPad app based on the volume. Now, the diary has been released as an audiobook read by Modine, and listening to the actor narrate his behind-the-scenes story was the greatest possible way I could have kicked off 2015. It’s great in exactly the way I had hoped it would be as a first-hand account of a master filmmaker at work, but it’s great in other, less expected ways too. Kubrick and Full Metal Jacket aside, Modine’s Diary is most valuable as a terrific snapshot of a young actor in transition, on the verge of becoming a master himself.

To continue reading the article "Jim Hemphill (The Trouble with the Truth) Talks Matthew Modine’s Full Metal Jacket Diary Audiobook" head to Talkhouse.

Full Metal Jacket will screen at the Egyptian for its 30th anniversary on July 1st at 7:30 pm.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

OLIVER STONE AT THE AERO, by Gretchen Husting and Luke Matheis

Filmmaker Oliver Stone appeared in person three nights at the Aero Theatre to share his films, and the stories behind making them, with the audience.



On Friday, May 19, 2017, the American Cinematheque welcomed Stone with a screening of U-Turn (1997) and Natural Born Killers (1994).

As Stone explained, his inspiration for U-Turn had to do with the aftermath of the release of Nixon. “Nixon was not well received, it broke my heart. I wish the movie had been more appreciated. After that, I went to a very solitary place …wrote a novel…I edited, got it down to 200 – 300 pages. I was on an inner journey… I needed to get back into things so I did a low budget movie, to make a profit. I loved this thing.”

Thursday, June 15, 2017

THE SUMMER OF LOVE TURNS 50, by John Hagelston

This June, we mark the 50th anniversary of “the Summer of Love.” Those few months of 1967 brought a renaissance of popular culture that spread from San Francisco’s bohemian enclaves across the entire world. With events like a “Human Be-In” at Golden Gate Park, the City by the Bay became a magnet for free-thinking young people, who flocked there by the tens of thousands during their school break to enjoy the groovy ’Frisco scene. Hippies danced to the beat of a different drummer, and if the Summer of Love was a coming-out party for the counterculture, it was certainly led by music.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A CONVERSATION WITH BERTRAND TAVERNIER, by Susan King

Bertrand Tavernier, 76, has been one of France’s most accomplished directors, helming such acclaimed films as 1974’s The Clockmaker of St. Paul, 1981’s Coup de Torchon, 1986’s 'Round Midnight, and 2002’s Safe Conduct. But much like Martin Scorsese, whom he directed in ’Round Midnight, Tavernier is also a student of cinema who has written film criticism and is also involved in film preservation.



His latest film, My Journey Through French Cinema,  is his three-hour valentine to film, exploring the work of such directors as Jacques Becker, Jean Renoir, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Claude Sautet, as well as the writer-director team of Jacques Prevert and Marcel Carne. The documentary features clips from countless films including Becker’s Casque d’or; Renoir’s La Chienne, La Bete Humaine, Grande Illusion, and Rules of the Game; Carne’s Le Jour Se Leve, Port of Shadows, and Les Enfants du Paradis; Godard’s Pierre Le Fou; Truffaut’s The 400 Blows and Shoot the Piano Player; and many examples of French film noir including Melville’s Bob Le Flambeur and Le Doulos; Becker’s Touchez pas au Grisbi; and Louis Malle’s Elevator to the Gallows.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

THE ETERNAL LOUISE BROOKS, by Susan King

In Billy Wilder’s 1950 masterpiece Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond famously declares, in reference to silent cinema stars, “We had faces then!” One actress who had the most extraordinary face was Louise Brooks.


The former dancer and Ziegfeld girl was the epitome of the 1920s, with her carefree attitude and extreme bobbed hair. She made several films at Paramount, most notably William Wellman’s gritty 1928 drama Beggars of Life.

But she is forever remembered for the three films she made in Europe - German director G.W. Pabst’s 1929 Pandora’s Box, in which she played a raw, sexual young woman named Lulu; his 1930 drama Diary of Lost Girl; and the 1930 French comedy Prix de beaute.