Advertisements

Monthly Archives: March 2019

RIP Agnes Varda (1928-2019)

1397CB7A-6C23-4847-897C-4DC0EDE3EB7D

It’s possible that I would never have become a filmmaker if not for Agnes Varda. It is certain that I wouldn’t have become the kind of filmmaker I did without the shining example of her films. The last script I wrote, a horror film titled The Vanishing Room contains an explicit homage to Cleo from 5 to 7, and the script I’m currently writing, a family dramedy titled Together Through Life, contains an explicit homage to The Gleaners and I. I first encountered Varda’s work when I saw the documentary The Young Girls Turn 25 at the Chicago International Film Festival in 1993. I was 18-years-old, had recently arrived in Chicago to attend theater school at DePaul and hadn’t even seen the film (Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort) that The Young Girls Turn 25 was ostensibly about. Yet I was instantly smitten by the curiosity and playfulness of her filmmaking eye. The experience of watching this film was not only my fortuitous introduction to the filmography of Agnes Varda but to the French New Wave as a whole. Over the years, I tried to watch as many of her films as I could and I loved her work so much that I eventually made her the subject of my first short-lived podcast in 2015. (You can hear me tell the full story of how The Young Girls Turn 25 changed my life in a conversation I had with critics Ben and Kat Sachs on episode 1 of The White City Cinema Radio Hour here.)

I had the great pleasure of meeting Varda in 2015 when she came to Chicago to attend a career retrospective of her films and an exhibit of her photographs titled “Photographs Get Moving” at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. I was invited to what was billed as a “press conference” with Varda about the photography exhibit. Then, at the last minute, the critics and journalists who had been invited to the event were told that Varda didn’t want to hold a formal press conference but instead wanted to merely talk to those of us who had come while giving us an informal tour of the gallery. The event ended up consisting of Varda talking to about a dozen people for 45 minutes and then offering to answer any questions we had. She had mentioned that she was working on a new film so I asked her if it was a feature or a short. She said it was a feature documentary that would be exactly 75 minutes long because that was the run time of The Gleaners and I, a length she considered ideal for non-fiction films. (The end result, Faces Places, would clock in at 90 minutes.) She also asked us if we knew the work of her co-director JR. I’ll never forget the look of surprise and pleasure on her face when Kat Sachs, sitting next to me, raised her hand.

The “press conference” ended with Varda announcing her personal e-mail address and inviting us to submit any further questions we had via e-mail. I took her up on the offer and asked if she wanted to do an interview for Time Out Chicago. I was astonished when she replied a few days later, apologizing for her tardiness and explaining that her days in Chicago were “full of activities and meetings” and that she hoped to find the time to do an architecture boat tour of the city. You can read the resulting interview, one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever done, at Time Out Chicago here. I saw Varda again when she participated in a Q&A moderated by Jonathan Rosenbaum following a screening of Cleo from 5 to 7 at the Music Box Theater towards the end of her stay. Answering questions in person, she was as full of life and love and curiosity about the world as you would expect based on watching her movies. But she could also speak bluntly when trying to get her point across. The two things that I remember most from that Q&A: A young man asked her about working with Jean-Luc Godard on Cleo from 5 to 7, a question that elicited boos from several audience members. “No, no,” Varda cut them off. “Godard is a genius.” She went on to say that the cinema needs people like Godard and praised his innovative use of 3D in Goodbye to Langauge. Later, she mentioned that Madonna had purchased the American remake rights to Cleo, a project that never got off the ground. Several audience members laughed loudly at the prospect of this remake but Varda quickly disabused them of the notion that she thought this was a bad idea and said that she wished it had happened.

I’ve shown Cleo from 5 to 7, Faces Places and, my favorite, Vagabond, in various film studies classes over the years and I look forward to showing them all (plus The Gleaners and I, Happiness and more) many more times in the future. Rest in peace, Madame Varda. The world will not see your like again.

agnes

Advertisements

Chicago Filmmakers Meet(UP) Networking Event

I will be the featured guest at the first Chicago Filmmakers Meet(UP) of 2019. This event will be held on Tuesday, April 2 from 7 to 9pm at the historical Edgewater firehouse at 5720 N. Ridge. Chicago-area filmmakers are welcome to network and discuss works-in-progress for the first hour then ask me any questions about my own work during the second hour. The event is free for Chicago Filmmakers members and $5 for non-members. There is free parking in the side lot (located on Hollywood Ave). More info here.

Screen shot 2019-03-28 at 8.03.49 AM


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. A History of Violence (Cronenberg)
2. JSA: Joint Security Area (Park)
3. Roy’s World: Barry Gifford’s Chicago (Christopher)
4. To Sleep with Anger (Burnett)
5. The Lady from Shanghai (Welles)
6. Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Straub/Huillet)
7. Canyon Passage (Tourneur)
8. Tiger Milk (Wieland)
9. Bicycle Thieves (De Sica)
10. The Beach Bum (Korine)


Talking Early Cinema in Wilmette

I’ll be giving a talk on the 1893 World’s Fair and its impact on the nascent film industry at the Wilmette Public Library this Wednesday night. The event is FREE and open to the public. If you’re in the north shore suburbs, please consider swinging by!

Zoopraxiscope_16485u

Screen shot 2019-03-25 at 12.23.42 PM


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Tormenting the Hen (Collatos)
2. Family Plot (Hitchcock)
3. Citizen Kane (Welles)
4. Mickey One (Penn)
5. Citizen Kane (Welles)
6. A New Leaf (May)
7. Fort Maria (Gentry/Southerland)
8. Bleed American (Manchester)
9. Rendezvous in Chicago (Smith)
10. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks)


RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO Wins Best Comedy at the Lindsey Film Fest

image.png

I am so honored that RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO won the Best Film Comedy award at the George Lindsey UNA Film Festival in Florence, Alabama last night! This was a great festival and it was a privilege just to screen alongside so many accomplished short and feature-length films. The award (our second Best Comedy award after Strasburg last fall) belongs to our entire cast and crew.

The next RENDEZVOUS IN CHICAGO screening will take place at the Beverly Arts Center on Wednesday, March 13 at 7:30pm and be followed by a Q&A with me conducted by critic Daniel Nava. Our next festival screening will take place at the Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia on the evening of Sunday, March 17 and be followed by a Q&A with me and producer Layne Marie Williams. For more info, visit the “Screenings” page.


%d bloggers like this: