Very Secret Movie club ratings

movie rating
The Child 4/5
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie 4/5
The Son's Room 3.5/5
Stranger Than Paradise 3/5
Dancer in the Dark
ChungKing Express
Happy Together3.5/5
My Blueberry Nights
Wild at Heart4/5
Summer Hours2/5
Blue Velvet
Inland Empire

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Night With Dariush Mehrjui at Berkeley this Saturday

Nima Television, Berkeley Lecture series and Iranian Student of Berkeley Presents:

A Night With Dariush Mehrjui
Saturday November 1st 2008
UC Berkeley Dwinell Hall Room 145 6:00 P.M.

Featuring the movie "The Pear Tree" (Derakht Golabi)
and a Movie with Khosrow Shakibayi "The Lost Cousin" (Dokhtar Dayi Gomshodeh)

following Q & A with Dariush Mehrjui
for info: 510-490-6462

Admission $15.00
With student ID $10.00

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stranger than Paradise: Reviews

Stranger than Paradise’s style is not really the type I enjoy to watch, however I find the subject of the human identity it touches very interesting. Trying to learn more about this work, I searched the web for the reviews and here are a little information I found. It was Jim Jarmusch’s second movie which originally was shot for 30 minutes from the leftover stocks of his film school thesis. Later on he added more scenes and made it into a feature film with three acts , “the New World”, “One year Later”, and “Paradise. The movie won the Cannes Golden Palm award in 1984, and was recognized as one of the early pioneers in the American independent film movement.

…the effect is disorienting until you recognize what Mr. Jarmusch is up to - that is, discovering the ludicrously sublime in the supremely tacky….''Stranger Than Paradise'' is a ''Marty'' that Jean-Paul Sartre might have appreciated, about hanging out, not in hell but in a permanent purgatory. This world sometimes looks like an eerily underpopulated New York City, a rundown but genteel working- class section of Cleveland or that scrubby part of the east coast of Florida that has yet to be transformed into a vacation paradise, where the motels always have vacancies, even at the height of the season, and where the swimming pools are filled with weeds, not water.” – The New York Times

An article in Cutlure Cartel discusses how according to Mulvey there are 2 narratives in cinema: masculine and feminine. Masculine oriented films gradually build a climax and find a fast resolution, whereas feminine films will be more circular and open ended. Jarmusch; on the other hand has introduced a more gender neutral, less sexist, racists narrative in his works.

Stranger than Paradise merges American and Hungarian culture in a way that doesn't make overt statements about multiculturalism so much as it presents scenarios and lets them work out their own conclusion. sometimes not much more than letting Aunt Lotte serve goulash. Yet what makes Stranger than Paradise such a joyful postmodern romp is not its alternative narrative or its multicultural tendencies. Stranger than Paradise is groundbreakingly alternative in its skeletal formalism.


Jarmusch constructs an America of isolation. Whether it is a tracking shot of Eva walking through an eerily vacant city street while listening to Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You," Eddie and Willy on a long drive with nothing to think about, or eating TV dinners, smoking Chesterfields and watching football in a 15'x15' apartment, (and the even more blatant visuals of standing alone watching airplanes take off, and sightseeing at Lake Erie), Jarmusch's juxtaposition of solitude and community would be poignantly depressing if the film weren't so deadpan. “ –Culture Cartel

Here are also a few other interesting reviews:

Boredom and loneliness are ever-present in this Paradise, an absolute lack of goals or potential that makes Willie, Eddie, and Eva's experience of America so disturbingly bleak. Theirs is an America of featureless cities and plains, rundown apartments and hotel rooms, donut joints, and highways that lead to nowhere in particular. There is hope for better times ahead. But before luck has the chance to turn, human nature intervenes, and it's back to square one for these restless, listless misfits.” – Film Critic

Here, characters not talking reflect a broader failure of communication, characters sitting around doing nothing reflect a more general lack of direction, and characters replaying the same scenes in different milieux reflect an inability to escape the rigidity of their own personalities. This is a film about narrow-mindedness, folly and a lack of initiative (in the Land of Opportunity) – as well as the impossibility of ever entirely leaving one's roots behind. It is also, after its own bone-dry fashion, devilishly funny.

Willie may lecture Eva on the 'American' way to eat, speak and behave, but while he is a single, work-shy loser with no ambition and few prospects, she is a resourceful, driven winner, quick to acquire a job and a boyfriend (Danny Rosen). In other words, she embraces the American Dream far more than her cousin ever will, and while the film's twist ending may at first seem merely an ironic gag that has come out of nowhere, in fact it crystallises the difference between this odd couple: Eva is open enough to seize the opportunities serendipity offers and to make a new life in the new world, while aimless Willie is in fact always going backwards. Paradise, it turns out, is not a real place to which you can travel, but more a state of mind which seems to be ever slipping away from the arrested Willie.” – Eye for Film

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jim Jarmusch

AlThough we have not yet confirmed if we will be watching "Stranger than Paradise" by Jim Jarmusch in our next movie night, there will be a strong possibility that this movie will be selected. Here you can find a very informative review of his works, style and vision from the Senses of Cinema.

Senses of Cinema is one of the credible resources that is mostly targeted towards the professionals in the film industry.

"Senses of Cinema is an online journal devoted to the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema. We believe cinema is an art that can take many forms, from the industrially-produced blockbuster to the hand-crafted experimental work; we also aim to encourage awareness of the histories of such diverse forms. As an Australian-based journal, we have a special commitment to the regular, wide-ranging analysis and critique of Australian cinema, past and present.

Senses of Cinema is primarily concerned with ideas about particular films or bodies of work, but also with the regimes (ideological, economic and so forth) under which films are produced and viewed, and with the more abstract theoretical and philosophical issues raised by film study. As well, we believe that a cinephilic understanding of the moving image provides the necessary basis for a radical critique of other media and of the global “image culture”.

We are open to a range of critical approaches (auteurist, formalist, psychoanalytic, humanist...) and encourage contributors to experiment with different forms of writing (personal memoir, academic essay, journalistic report, poetic evocation...). We commission and accept articles from academics and journalists, internationally-known authorities and previously unpublished cinephiles alike; our only criteria are that they should shed new light on their subjects, and be informed by a broad knowledge and love of cinema. Likewise, our readership is a genuinely diverse group, bringing together people from a wide range of backgrounds, professions and interests but bound by a single common element: an informed, passionate and serious attitude toward cinema as an art.

We recognise that an art as ephemeral and ethereal as cinema continues to fascinate, provoke, inspire, turn on, and evolve. Above all, we seek to facilitate approaches to cinema that present new possibilities for exploring, experiencing and imagining the world we live in." -Senses of Cinema

Harriet Andersson recalls Ingmar Bergman

Friday, October 17, 2008

Harriet Andersson, 76, is one of the greats of world cinema, part of a small group of actresses who appeared regularly in the films of Ingmar Bergman. Dark-haired and of average height, she was not the prototypical tall, reserved Scandinavian actress, but someone impulsive and physical, full of life force and overt sexual energy. She became famous throughout Europe at 20 years old, as the star of "Summer With Monika" (1953), about a sexually free teenage girl. And her performances as the vibrant but mentally disturbed heroine of "Through a Glass Darkly" (1961) and as the dying sister in "Cries and Whispers" (1972) are classics.

Andersson, as earthy and laughing in person as you could ever hope her to be, was in town last week for a tribute at the Mill Valley Film Festival.

Q: Well, what an honor to meet you.

A: (laughs) You don't know yet.

Q: How did you come to make "Monika," and is it true that Ingmar Bergman discovered you when you were operating an elevator in Stockholm?

A: In an elevator! Ha, that's a new one for me. No. I did operate an elevator, but that was when I was 14 1/2! Ingmar did not discover me. I was discovered in 1949 in theater school. Before "Monika," I had many small parts. Most of them were a little like Monika. I looked that way. I looked like a bad girl. But I wasn't a bad girl, really. I was a very nice little girl, until I found out what life was.

I was a little afraid (to audition for "Monika") because we had heard so much about Ingmar, that he was an angry man and a demon, that he hated actors - all lies. So I went out, and we made the test. We started, and there on the floor was a basin with water in it, standing on the floor. And when I was running around and so on, I put my foot into it. And for a millionth part of a second, I thought, "Shall I stop?" But I didn't - I just kicked it away. And afterwards, Ingmar told me, "That's why you got the part."

Q: And then you lived with him. At one point did you realize you were living with a genius?

A: I don't know when I learned it. It was many years after. Of course, I knew it was nice to work with him, and he gave me nice parts and all that. First we lived together in a small, small apartment, one room and a kitchenette. He had left his wife. And then in '53, we moved down to Malmo, and there we had three rooms, and that was a little better. He didn't get a lot of money, and he had a lot of other wives to support. He was a poor man - but he did it to himself. ... I'm still very surprised sometimes, thinking, I was living and loving a genius, a world-famous genius. I don't look at him that way when I think of him. But he was never a genius director in Sweden, you know. He's not so famous in Sweden as he is in other parts of the world. I think he was a little sad for that.

Q: Can you talk a little about making "Through a Glass Darkly," particularly the breakdown scene at the climax?

A: It was fun to do those things. I loved it. I'd moved to the south of Sweden. I was married down there. I was sitting on a farm, and really I was very sad. And then Ingmar called me and said, "I'm going to send you a script." I read the script, and I called him back. I said, "Ingmar, it's a fantastic script, but I can't do it." "Why?" "Because I think it's too difficult for me." "Don't talk s-!" Once we started, I was almost flying by myself up to Stockholm. And coming back to the studio, seeing all my old friends, I never felt so good or happy or well in a film, before or after. (For the climactic breakdown scene) we did two, maybe three takes. I don't like to do more takes, because I'm best in the first. When the camera starts, I move. I don't want to be like, 'Oh, it's so easy for me,' but it's the way I work. I don't think too much. I'm not that kind of actor. I work on instinct.

Q: Your death scene in "Cries and Whispers" is one of the most harrowing on film. How did it come about?

A: That's the death of my father. He was very, very sick. He died in '56 or '57. He had stomach cancer. He was lying in the hospital, and it was a very hot summer. I was there for 1 1/2 days. And he's the only person I've ever seen die. And they were very strict with the morphine in those days. So you know I was sitting there, and he was sleeping, and then suddenly he would start with the (labored and gasping) breathing. Then very, very quietly, he was dead. After all that, he died like she does. Death is coming so quick sometimes. So I called the nurse. I said, "I think he's dead." You know what she did? They didn't have machines and monitors in those days. She came back with a mirror.

Q: How did you like playing opposite James Mason in "The Deadly Affair" (1966)?

A: He was such a sweet man. And oh, his lips. I played his wife, so he had the right to kiss me.

Q: You were his nymphomaniac wife.

A: That's why they made her Swedish.

E-mail Mick LaSalle at

This article appeared on page E - 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle

The Man Who Asked Hard Questions

Correction Appended

I GOT the news in Oviedo, a lovely little town in the north of Spain where I am shooting a movie, that Bergman had died. A phone message from a mutual friend was relayed to me on the set. Bergman once told me he didn’t want to die on a sunny day, and not having been there, I can only hope he got the flat weather all directors thrive on.

I’ve said it before to people who have a romanticized view of the artist and hold creation sacred: In the end, your art doesn’t save you. No matter what sublime works you fabricate (and Bergman gave us a menu of amazing movie masterpieces) they don’t shield you from the fateful knocking at the door that interrupted the knight and his friends at the end of “The Seventh Seal.” And so, on a summer’s day in July, Bergman, the great cinematic poet of mortality, couldn’t prolong his own inevitable checkmate, and the finest filmmaker of my lifetime was gone.

I have joked about art being the intellectual’s Catholicism, that is, a wishful belief in an afterlife. Better than to live on in the hearts and minds of the public is to live on in one’s apartment, is how I put it. And certainly Bergman’s movies will live on and will be viewed at museums and on TV and sold on DVDs, but knowing him, this was meager compensation, and I am sure he would have been only too glad to barter each one of his films for an additional year of life. This would have given him roughly 60 more birthdays to go on making movies; a remarkable creative output. And there’s no doubt in my mind that’s how he would have used the extra time, doing the one thing he loved above all else, turning out films.

Bergman enjoyed the process. He cared little about the responses to his films. It pleased him when he was appreciated, but as he told me once, “If they don’t like a movie I made, it bothers me — for about 30 seconds.” He wasn’t interested in box office results, even though producers and distributors called him with the opening weekend figures, which went in one ear and out the other. He said, “By mid-week their wildly optimistic prognosticating would come down to nothing.” He enjoyed critical acclaim but didn’t for a second need it, and while he wanted the audience to enjoy his work, he didn’t always make his films easy on them.

Still, those that took some figuring out were well worth the effort. For example, when you grasp that both women in “The Silence” are really only two warring aspects of one woman, the otherwise enigmatic film opens up spellbindingly. Or if you are up on your Danish philosophy before you see “The Seventh Seal” or “The Magician,” it certainly helps, but so amazing were his gifts as a storyteller that he could hold an audience riveted and enthralled with difficult material. I’ve heard people walk out after certain films of his saying, “I didn’t get exactly what I just saw but I was gripped on the edge of my seat every frame.”

Bergman’s allegiance was to theatricality, and he was also a great stage director, but his movie work wasn’t just informed by theater; it drew on painting, music, literature and philosophy. His work probed the deepest concerns of humanity, often rendering these celluloid poems profound. Mortality, love, art, the silence of God, the difficulty of human relationships, the agony of religious doubt, failed marriage, the inability for people to communicate with one another.

And yet the man was a warm, amusing, joking character, insecure about his immense gifts, beguiled by the ladies. To meet him was not to suddenly enter the creative temple of a formidable, intimidating, dark and brooding genius who intoned complex insights with a Swedish accent about man’s dreadful fate in a bleak universe. It was more like this: “Woody, I have this silly dream where I show up on the set to make a film and I can’t figure out where to put the camera; the point is, I know I am pretty good at it and I have been doing it for years. You ever have those nervous dreams?” or “You think it will be interesting to make a movie where the camera never moves an inch and the actors just enter and exit frame? Or would people just laugh at me?”

What does one say on the phone to a genius? I didn’t think it was a good idea, but in his hands I guess it would have turned out to be something special. After all, the vocabulary he invented to probe the psychological depths of actors also would have sounded preposterous to those who learn filmmaking in the orthodox manner. In film school (I was thrown out of New York University quite rapidly when I was a film major there in the 1950s) the emphasis was always on movement. These are moving pictures, students were taught, and the camera should move. And the teachers were right. But Bergman would put the camera on Liv Ullmann’s face or Bibi Andersson’s face and leave it there and it wouldn’t budge and time passed and more time and an odd and wonderful thing unique to his brilliance would happen. One would get sucked into the character and one was not bored but thrilled.

Bergman, for all his quirks and philosophic and religious obsessions, was a born spinner of tales who couldn’t help being entertaining even when all on his mind was dramatizing the ideas of Nietzsche or Kierkegaard. I used to have long phone conversations with him. He would arrange them from the island he lived on. I never accepted his invitations to visit because the plane travel bothered me, and I didn’t relish flying on a small aircraft to some speck near Russia for what I envisioned as a lunch of yogurt. We always discussed movies, and of course I let him do most of the talking because I felt privileged hearing his thoughts and ideas. He screened movies for himself every day and never tired of watching them. All kinds, silents and talkies. To go to sleep he’d watch a tape of the kind of movie that didn’t make him think and would relax his anxiety, sometimes a James Bond film.

Like all great film stylists, such as Fellini, Antonioni and Buñuel, for example, Bergman has had his critics. But allowing for occasional lapses all these artists’ movies have resonated deeply with millions all over the world. Indeed, the people who know film best, the ones who make them — directors, writers, actors, cinematographers, editors — hold Bergman’s work in perhaps the greatest awe.

Because I sang his praises so enthusiastically over the decades, when he died many newspapers and magazines called me for comments or interviews. As if I had anything of real value to add to the grim news besides once again simply extolling his greatness. How had he influenced me, they asked? He couldn’t have influenced me, I said, he was a genius and I am not a genius and genius cannot be learned or its magic passed on.

When Bergman emerged in the New York art houses as a great filmmaker, I was a young comedy writer and nightclub comic. Can one’s work be influenced by Groucho Marx and Ingmar Bergman? But I did manage to absorb one thing from him, a thing not dependent on genius or even talent but something that can actually be learned and developed. I am talking about what is often very loosely called a work ethic but is really plain discipline.

I learned from his example to try to turn out the best work I’m capable of at that given moment, never giving in to the foolish world of hits and flops or succumbing to playing the glitzy role of the film director, but making a movie and moving on to the next one. Bergman made about 60 films in his lifetime, I have made 38. At least if I can’t rise to his quality maybe I can approach his quantity.

Correction: August 19, 2007

An article last Sunday about Ingmar Bergman and a picture caption with the article misspelled the name of an actress who appeared in Bergman’s films. She is Liv Ullmann, not Liv Ullman.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

SF 7th internationl DocFest 2008 ( Oct 17- Nov6)

More than 60 documentary films are being screened in SF Roxie and Berkeley Landmark Shattuck theaters.

Please feel free to check the schedule and let others know if you are interested in a specific film. We might be able to go to one of the screenings if enough people show interest.

Here is the AD taken from SFStation:
Oscar Wilde once said, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” With over 60 films from around the world, the seventh annual Documentary Film Festival (DocFest) is offering three weeks of rather complex, and engaging nonfiction films and videos. Presenting new films from around the world and plenty of premieres, there is something in the fest for everyone.

The festival opens with Abel Ferarra's CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS about the world famous Chelsea Hotel and the many artists who have lived there over the decades. Closing Night film is Nina Davenports OPERATION FILMMAKER starring Liev Shcreiber about the series of disasters that take place when he invites an Iraqi film student to join his film crew in the Czech Republic.

In between are 60 more films depicting stories small and large. Plus we're throwing a big opening night bash and a Roller Disco Costume Party at CellSpace on Oct 24.

Come check it out!"