Chalk it up to post-TIFF blues, cinephiliac exhaustion, or falling behind just as the new semester began at my workplace, but apologies to Filmjourney readers for my recent blogging hiatus. Things will be firing back up here shortly with my comments on the couple dozen films I saw at TIFF, the rarer films in the Jacques Rivette series currently gracing the screen at UCLA, as well as some new DVD releases. In November, I’ll follow the Mikio Naruse season at UCLA and the AFI FEST, which will include a few films I missed at TIFF.
My trip to the Toronto festival was as enjoyable as you might’ve expected, but especially because I was able to interview the Dardenne brothers for an upcoming issue of Paste magazine. (Alas, the excellent L’Enfant doesn’t open nationally until next March.) The Palme d’Or winners were quiet, thoughtful, and exceedingly approachable. In the meantime, keep an eye out for my future entry on their career for Senses of Cinema‘s Great Directors series.
One of my more painful scheduling conflicts occurs this Sunday, however, when UCLA will screen the newly restored print of Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932) and the Filmforum will host a celebration of the new DVD set, Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1894-1941, with preservationists Bruce Posner and David Shepard in attendance. Dreyer wins the draw, but it does make me wish programmers would coordinate city-wide for those of us who want to catch it all.
One last note, I happened to have caught one of the best “family films” I’ve seen in a long while–Carroll Ballard’s Duma–last week, and it’s every bit as visually striking, intelligent, and sensitively handled as many critics are saying it is. My young nephews are visiting next week and if a movie appears on our schedule, this will be it. Apparently, Warner would rather flood theatres with Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride and relegate Ballard’s coming-of-age fable to eventual DVD, but if you get a chance to see it on the big screen, don’t miss it.
And speaking of Warner, their long-awaited Val Lewton horror box set has been entertaining me the last few days despite its largely unrestored prints and decidedly mixed commentaries. Greg Mank, who offered a solid commentary for the Columbia DVD of Mamoulian’s Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), provides a similarly informative and observant track for Cat People, but the gossipy and frivolous duo who discuss I Walked with a Zombie are a definite disappointment. (“We have to admit, Lewton’s films are kind of arty…”) Where are esteemed critics like Chris Fujiwara (who wrote an excellent book on Tourneur) or Robin Wood (who included Zombie on his all-time top ten list) when you need them? I hope to offer a more in-depth write-up on this set, but needless to say, if you haven’t already discovered the Lewton canon, it would make exquisite October viewing.