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Breakfast with Curtis

I saw Breakfast with Curtis (2012) last night. It’s delightful, a charming ultra-low-budget film using mostly non-actors and shot in two neighboring houses in Providence. It’s easy to see why it’s become something of an underground hit.

I’d point you toward some footage, but the trailers for the movie make it look like some terrible formulaic indie film, which is exactly what it isn’t. I’m glad I didn’t watch them first; they really don’t do it justice. (They’re like the Shining trailer.)

If I had to say whose work the film reminds me of, I might say Jim Jarmusch, Agnès Varda, David Gordon Green, Richard Linklater, and Hayao Miyazaki—but much more underground and low-key than any of them (yes, even Jarmusch). The whole thing is deftly plotted and structured, with a sweet and gentle tone maintained throughout. Everyone in it is acting, playing what are apparently thinly-veiled versions of their real selves, but the film as a whole feels natural and slack. And yet the movie is also pleasantly stilted and awkward at the same time.  It’s not Mumblecore, in that it’s more hippie than hipster, but I can see why some might make that comparison. And it’s similar to Linklater’s Boyhood in some ways, but more offbeat/eccentric—plus its scope is much, much smaller (a single summer).

Particularly worth mentioning is Theo Green’s performance as Syd, the aging hippie bookseller who’s constantly drunk on cheap red wine. Apparently some are now calling him “the Lebowski of Providence.” I hope he appears in more movies. (Lunch with Curtis?) You can see him in a series of YouTube videos he made with costar Jonah Parker (who plays Curtis): Breakfast with Theo, which partly inspired the feature. Snippets of that series appear in Breakfast with Curtis—but the feature is not anything like the shorts.

Breakfast with Curtis is easily one of the best new films I’ve seen this year. Highly recommended! Here’s the film’s official site, where you can view one of the aforementioned trailers, and buy a copy of the entire film if you’re so inclined.

P.S. Thanks to Ben and Kat Sachs for organizing the screening, and the invaluable Nightingale for hosting.

When I was in college, Federico Fellini was the first foreign filmmaker I really got into. I watched  repeatedly, and made it my mission to watch every one of his films. I had some trouble finding La voce della luna, but eventually tracked down two VHS bootleg copies: one letterboxed but lacking English subs, the other subtitled, but pan-and-scanned. My pal Elf and I watched them simultaneously, on two TV-VCR setups. We had to keep briefly pausing one of the videos every few minutes, to keep them both in sync. (I don’t know if the movie ever got official US distribution. I see there’s a copy up at YouTube, but it lacks English subs.)

So I’m what you might call a Fellini fanatic. But until the other day, I didn’t know he’d directed TV commercials. I’ll embed them below the jump.

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Over at PressPlay, I have a new post that surveys the history of the critical film term mise-en-scène, in order to argue past the tendency to oppose that concept with editing. I also push back against the current obsession with long takes, and analyze a clip from the very rapidly cut Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (still my favorite Hollywood film of the past five years). Also discussed: essays by David Bordwell and Brian Henderson. It’s a long post!

In response, Richard Brody kindly alerted me to this New Yorker article of his, which complicates the image of the 1950s Cahiers du Cinéma crowd as being entirely opposed to montage. Key paragraph:

[Henry K.] Miller rightly notes that André Bazin, the editor of Cahiers until his death, in 1958, made a name for himself as an opponent of the then-dominant trend in film theory—as an opponent of montage, of editing, as the essence of cinema. Miller goes on at length about a 1962 essay by Gérard Gozlan in Positif that challenges Bazin’s ideas, but Miller fails to note that the most important French refutations of Bazin came in the pages of Cahiers itself, beginning a decade earlier—from Jean-Luc Godard. [...] Godard’s ideas both superseded and encompassed Bazin’s theories and paved the way for his own approach to filmmaking, in which tightly edited sequences and long takes, closeups and deep-focus shots coexist.

It’s well worth reading in its entirety.

Meanwhile, I hope to do more writing soon on short takes. I’ll of course be seeing the fourth Transformers film, and have wanted for some time now to do some analysis of the Bond film Quantum of Solace—in particular the pre-credits sequence, which might be the most rapidly cut sequence in modern Hollywood:

That video is so cribbing from Derek Jarman:

The Jarman video is much better, but I still like the Suede song.

A quick cinema update

I updated my grand total all-my-writings-on-cinema post with links to my recent reviews of The World’s End and Blue Jasmine.

I only just learned about it a few weeks ago:

Related (duh): Faev snogs: Kraftwerk, “Das Model”

I feel a little unclean linking to a VH1 Storytellers version, but it’s Waits so OK:

The album version is après le jump.

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