DID YOU READ

Michael Haneke Makes It Hurt So Good

Michael Haneke Makes It Hurt So Good (photo)

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I love black and white, and I use it every chance I can, but there were a number of technical difficulties. We had to start from scratch because no one has any experience working with it anymore. On top of that, we had to shoot using color film stock because black and white stock isn’t sensitive enough to film by candlelight and gaslight. We shot in color, and then transferred it to digital. There was an incredible amount of work involved, but I think the results made it worth it. In terms of visual models, we used as references the photographs of August Sander, who was the photographer in Germany during this period.

Were you pressured by investors or distributors to shoot in color?

Of course. [laughs] Our co-financiers in television demanded that we provide them with a color print. They didn’t want to show the film in black and white. It was only after we won the Palme d’Or that they finally reneged on their demand.

At the New York Film Festival press conference last fall, you said that the old cursive subtitle below the title translates to “A German children’s tale,” but you left it untranslated because it made the film too specific to German audiences.

We say that, in Germany, the audiences should see the film as about Germany. Whereas in America, people should see the film as about America, and in France, people should see it as about France. That’s why we didn’t translate that subtitle. It was meant as an ironic nudge at the German audience. Interestingly, even in Germany, over half the spectators won’t be able to understand it because it’s written in an old form of handwriting that my grandmother used, but even my parents can’t read.

What about the other part of the subtitle. Did you think the tongue-in-cheekiness of “a children’s tale” couldn’t be appreciated in other cultures?

The title is always the last thing you determine about a film. There were a number of titles that we were playing with through the years while I was working on this script. Until we made that decision, the film was called “A Children’s Tale.” It’s not so ironic. In both German and English, the title has an ambiguous meaning. It could mean both a tale about children, and a tale for children.

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I like that the film is narrated after the fact by a minor character who only appears in the margins of the story.

For dramaturgical reasons, the teacher and the nanny Eva are the only people who come from outside. An external viewpoint allowed me an objectifying perspective.

Since he’s an unreliable narrator, you’re able to play with the ideas of memory and mythology, by depicting exchanges between characters that he’d never have been privy to.

That’s the narrative irony. It’s also present in the classic novels, where the novelist claims to describe things that there’s no way he or she could know. That’s why the narrator begins the tale as he does. He says, “I’m not sure if the tale I’m about to describe to you actually took place in this way. My memory is vague and a lot of things I’ve heard only from hearsay.” The beginning is meant to stress for the audience that the reality they’re seeing onscreen shouldn’t be taken as reality, but as memories and artifact. The black and white stresses this artificial aspect, too.

This is your first film shot in Germany in a decade. How different is it working in other countries, especially outside of your native language?

It’s easier in Germany because I understand everything. [laughs] It’s not a question of how to explain myself. Even when I explain in a very childish way, the actors are forced to listen to me, so it’s not so terrible. I’m a control freak. I have to know what’s going on. If it’s in another country — even in France, I speak not-too-bad French — I’m a little bit out of control because they’re talking and I don’t understand everything. There’s more stress.

There are wonderful actors all around the world. By shooting in different languages, you have the opportunity to work with them as well. What’s important is, when you’re listening to your actors, to be able to tell whether the emotions are true or not. When it’s not my mother tongue, I can see if a reading is correct or not. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Working in different languages has allowed me to be able to shoot continuously without long pauses in between because I’ve been in different territories.

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There are a quite a few roles for children in all your films, and you always snag great performances out of them. Good child actors are hard to come by, as is. What’s your trick?

There’s no trick! You have to find the right casting, that’s all. If you have talented children, it’s better than an actor because they’re not playing. Actors are always playing another person. With a child, if it’s a lion, he is a lion.

Speaking of casting, I noticed “Everyone Else” co-star Birgit Minichmayr in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her cameo. That other film is a part of the “Berlin School” filmmaking scene, and I’m curious what you think of it.

I know and admire the Berlin School of filmmakers, but Birgit really doesn’t belong to them. She’s an Austrian who works in Vienna, but I know her personally. That was as a favor to me that this huge theater star accepted this small role.

Your films are always so depressing and intense. Have you ever thought about directing something lighter, warmer, maybe a comedy?

Even my aunt would chide me and ask, “You’re such a nice young man. Why don’t you ever make comedies?” My answer to her was that you can’t ask a cobbler to make a hat.

“The White Ribbon” is now open in New York and Los Angeles before expanding into limited release on January 15th.

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

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Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

Suffer the Children

Suffer the Children (photo)

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Jimmy is the grandson of a former governor, but his family has fallen on hard times; his father (Will Patton) drinks himself into a daily stupor while his mother (Barbara Garrick) slips deeper into catatonia in a snake pit of a mental asylum. Jimmy does not reciprocate Fisher’s passion but is contemplating faking it for the sake of her money.

The two of them squabble on the way to a Halloween party hosted by Julie (Mamie Gummer), one of Fisher’s remaining friends, and it’s at the party that the plot comes to a boil — Fisher misplaces the titular bauble, half of a pair of her grandmother’s earrings said to be worth $10,000; Julie’s cousin Vinnie (Jessica Collins) immediately gets her claws into Jimmy; and Julie’s aunt Addie (Ellen Burstyn), a globe-trotting travel writer felled by a stroke, asks Fisher to give her enough pills to put her out of her misery.

Any or all of this might have been interesting in the right hands, but actress-turned-director Jodie Markell keeps the proceedings so sluggish and somniferous that I felt like I had swallowed a handful of Addie’s medication. Collins imbues Vinnie with some wonderfully naked rapaciousness that makes her the one character to stand out; everyone else on screen drowns in a glaze of honey.

Fisher’s the sort of character that audiences have to be able to judge and sympathize with simultaneously, and while Howard has shown herself to be a talented actress in other films, she feels adrift here. (One can only imagine what a lucid Lindsay Lohan — who was originally hired to play the role — might have done with the part.) Williams’ women are tricky roles to play, in that you have to skate out to the edge of Southern grandiosity without tipping over into the pit of drag queen self-parody; unfortunately, Howard, Ann-Margret and Burstyn all take the plunge.

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And then there’s Chris Evans, a pretty actor who seems to have time-warped from the Henry Willson stable of hunky clients; back in the 1950s, they would have renamed him Chunk or Slab or something, alongside Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter. He may one day mature into a wizened-yet-hunky veteran actor of the James Brolin/Sam Elliott school, but for now he remains an attractive blank.

It’s tempting to recommend an eventual “Loss of a Teardrop Diamond” drinking game for when the film premieres on cable, but were you to take even a sip every time the words “teardrop diamond” are uttered, you’d pass out by the end. Which, after an hour or so of these Southern-fried shenanigans, might not be such a bad thing.

Alonso Duralde is our guest critic for the month of December.

“The White Ribbon” is now open in New York and Los Angeles; “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond” is now open in limited release.

Running Late

Running Late (photo)

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As we wind down to year’s end, we find Michael Haneke’s Cannes conqueror fashionably late to the party, while Paramount waited three years to release the Renée Zellweger horror flick “Case 39″ and a mere half-century later, audiences will finally see the fruits of an unproduced Tennessee Williams screenplay. Throw in a pair of modern Korean films and you’ve got yourself an exciting way to start the new year.

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“Case 39″
We can only hope it’s no reflection of quality that this latest volley from the creepy-kid subgenre sat on the shelf for so long that its director, Christian Alvart, had another project (daffy sci-fi chiller “Pandorum”) wrapped, released and mostly ignored before this domestic thriller even made it to our shores. The German helmer’s English-language debut (at least chronologically) has Renée Zellweger playing a kindly social worker who wrestles away the innocuous looking young Lilith (Jodelle Ferland) from seemingly abusive parents, only to discover that the little angel might not be as benevolent as she appears. Ian McShane, who has yet to transfer his small screen authority to movies, co-stars as a creeped-out child therapist.
Opens wide.

“The Chaser”
A huge hit in its native South Korea, Na Hong-jin’s directorial debut centers on a fallen police officer-turned-pimp who must dust off his detective skills when his prostitutes begin to go missing. Kim Yoon-suk stars as the mack daddy who believes he’s stumbled onto the case of a serial killer, but finds little help from his former colleagues. Although it sounds like the kind of film no American studio would touch, Leonardo DiCaprio is said to be eyeing an American remake for Warner Bros.
Opens in New York.

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