PT Anderson, Bong Joon-ho, and the Iranian Invasion


My aim in this column is to give my own take on recent news about a variety of upcoming projects, and I think you’ll agree that I’ve done just that. It’s not as easy as it looks, so feel free to leave a comment congratulating me on this accomplishment.

Weinstein Picks Up Bong

I can’t think of another filmmaker who’s had quite the success of Bong Joon-ho. To my mind, every one of the South Korean director’s films to date — Barking Dogs Never Bite, Memories of Murder, The Host and Mother — could justifiably be called a masterpiece. Still, it’s natural to have a little trepidation when a beloved foreign cinematic artist, particularly one whose work is as culturally specific as Bong’s, “goes Hollywood.” So while I’m excited about his mostly English-language adaptation of the French post-apocalyptic graphic novel, Snow Piercer, the most expensive South Korean production ever, I’m also a little nervous about it. In any case, The Weinstein Company acquired distribution rights this week for the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. I shouldn’t worry, right?

Iran Invades Rotterdam

If cinema can be a force for good in the world, the test is the current crop of Iranian filmmakers, both in-country and expatriate, who are giving us a broader view of their country, warts and all. The International Film Festival Rotterdam will highlight some of them in Signals: Inside Iran, a sidebar of the festival in January. Highlights will include: Parviz, the new film by Majid Barzegar, about a jobless middle aged man who is kicked out of his home when his elderly father remarries; Modest Reception, Mani Haghighi‘s (Men at Work) film about a mysterious couple traveling through a war-torn region, handing out cash;  and Mania Akbari‘s (Twenty Fingers) new film, From Tehran to Iran. Most probably know Akbari as the lead from Abbas Kiarostami‘s Ten, but she’s an accomplished filmmaker in her own right. From the synopsis, it seems the film is about a bourgeois couple outside Tehran with marital problems, but it’s also about Akbari’s efforts to make that film, and her decision to leave Iran due to her lack of creative freedom there. That sounds typical of the fascinating “meta” tradition in Iranian cinema. More titles will be announced.

Will PTA Yuck it Up?

You’re not allowed to like Paul Thomas Anderson. You either worship him, or you really just don’t get him, which maybe means you shouldn’t be allowed to see movies anymore. Anderson did an interview recently with the site Moviehole.net, and while he rambles a bit, it’s a good one. It’s always nice when a filmmaker is so straightforward about the process of his work, and about what he likes. There’s a bit at the end where he mentions that he’d like to make a flat-out comedy, something in the mode of Airplane or Ted (?) that just never gets old. His movies, even the relatively somber recent ones, always have a darkly comic edge to them, as in that absurd, horrific drug robbery scene in Boogie Nights where Alfred Molina sings “Sister Christian.” I would love to see PTA’s version of say, Dumb & Dumber, but this seems like a far off in the future type of pipe dream.

Cinedigm Picks Up Toronto Hits

Cinedigm recently picked up two features that played at Toronto: Arthur Newman, which played this year’s fest, and Violet & Daisy, which has lingered since 2011. The first stars Colin Firth as an unhappy man who fakes his own death and abandons his family, going on the road and taking up with an equally troubled young woman played by Emily Blunt. It’s the feature debut of Dante Ariola, and was written by Becky Johnston (The Prince of Tides). The latter film was written and directed by Precious screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher, and got decidedly mixed, sometimes perplexed notices at Toronto. It stars Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel as cheery young assassins whose careers take a strange turn when they befriend a depressive target (James Gandolfini). I’m always a sucker for the ones “they” don’t know what to make of, so I’ll be checking this out. Both films are scheduled for theatrical release in 2013.

Ed Burns on Ice

According to Deadline, filmmaker-actor Ed Burns and screenwriter Doug Atchison (Akeelah and the Bee) are teaming up to develop a movie about 1970s Boston Bruins star Derek “Turk” Sanderson, who battled problems with drugs and alcohol while he triumphed on the ice. I suppose with the recent critical success of Michael Dowse‘s Goon, it’s only natural that more period hockey films are in the works. Burns will co-produce and star as Turk’s dad. But who is Ed Burns, you ask? No, you’re not really asking that. I’m just being mean. Burns’ early success with The Brothers McMullen (1995) certainly earned diminishing returns, but at least every one of his pallid rom-coms still gets selected for the Tribeca Film Festival.

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