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Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2

I reviewed Fellini’s 8 1/2 for Cine-File Chicago ahead of a couple of revival screenings at the Gene Siskel Film Center this weekend.

Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (Italy)
Gene Siskel Film Center – Saturday, 3pm and Sunday, 6:30pm


Life imitates art and art imitates life in Federico Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece, a thinly disguised autobiographical study of an Italian filmmaker, Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni, naturally), fighting director’s block while making a science-fiction epic. 8 1/2 proved to be exactly the right movie for its cultural moment, as cinematic new waves were cropping up all over the world and the auteurist notion that a film could be (and indeed should be) seen as the personal expression of a single individual was filtering down from critics to the general moviegoing public. Of course, an intuitive director like Fellini wasn’t consciously trying to capture the zeitgeist but merely throwing his own confusion about life, love, and art up on the screen (the film’s original title, THE BEAUTIFUL CONFUSION, would have been apt). Fellini also had no way of knowing that the innovative way he showed the collision of his protagonist’s fantasies, dreams, and childhood memories—most of which pertain to Guido’s struggles with religion and/or the women in his life—would exert such a massive influence on future filmmakers. Everyone from Woody Allen (STARDUST MEMORIES) to Bob Fosse (ALL THAT JAZZ) to Paul Mazursky (ALEX IN WONDERLAND and THE PICKLE) unofficially remade it (while, ironically, the official remake, the Hollywood musical NINE, proved to be an impersonal work-for-hire for director Rob Marshall). As Dave Kehr perceptively noted, “There’s something about the concept (stuck for an idea for his new movie, a director takes a long, hard look at his own life) that appeals irresistibly to the ego of the professional filmmaker. For directors frustrated by the eternal obscurity of life behind the camera, the 8 1/2 formula gives them a way to step forward and grab the spotlight they’ve trained so long on others.” Fellini may never again have ascended to the level of greatness he displayed here, even though he repeatedly mined similar subject matter, but 8 1/2 remains a dizzying career high. (1963, 138 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. The Card Counter* (Schrader) – A-
2. Short Cuts (Altman) – B+
3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene) – A
4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Wiene) – A
5. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Lynch) – A
6. Our Hospitality (Keaton) – A+
7. Our Hospitality (Keaton) – A+
8. Sherlock Jr. (Keaton) – A+
9. Candyman* (DaCosta) – C
10. Housekeeping* (Forsyth) – A

* – first-time watch


RELATIVE Poster Revealed!

I am excited to unveil the poster for my fourth feature film, RELATIVE, here and across all social media platforms. The poster was designed by the multitalented Armani Barron using a still from the film originally captured by killer DP Olivia Aquilina. The actors depicted are Wendy Robie, Francis Guinan, Cameron Scott Roberts, Clare Cooney, Keith D. Gallagher, Emily Lape, Melissa DuPrey and Arielle Gonzalez. The World Premiere will likely be late this year or in early 2022. Stay tuned for more info!


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Summer of Sam* (Lee) – C
2. Oh! My Dear Desire* (Ross) – C+
3. Thelonious Monk: Straight No Chaser* (Zwerin) – A-
4. Glen and Randa* (McBride) – B+
5. Annette* (Carax) – A
6. After Dark My Sweet* (Foley) – B-
7. Whirlybird* (Yoka) – B
8. Hard to Handle (Armstrong) – A-
9. Pig* (Sarnoski) – C+
10. Dr. T & the Women* (Altman) – B+

* – First-time watch


Matt Yoka’s WHIRLYBIRD

I reviewed Matt Yoka’s WHIRLYBIRD for Cine-file Chicago. It begins a (live!) run at the Gene Siskel Film Center beginning tonight.

A still from Whirlybird by Matt Yoka, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Los Angeles News Service. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Matt Yoka’s WHIRLYBIRD (US/Documentary)
WHIRLYBIRD, Matt Yoka’s documentary feature debut, is a tale of two movies. It’s a portrait of the complicated, occasionally toxic marriage between journalists Zoey Tur (then known as Bob) and Marika Gerrard; it also serves as an informal history of “newscopter” journalism in Los Angeles during the 1980s and 90s. With its plethora of manicured lawns and backyard swimming pools, LA has always been an exceptionally interesting city when seen from a bird’s-eye view, and Yoka’s use of archival aerial footage is frequently stunning (even in 2021, when unnecessary drone shots have become overused by filmmakers intent on showing off “production value”). Anyone who lived through this era might be surprised to realize how many familiar images from the national news were captured by Tur and Gerrard’s video cameras: Michael Jackson being admitted to the hospital after suffering severe burns while filming a Pepsi ad; the riots that followed the exoneration of the police officers responsible for beating Rodney King; the infamous O.J. Simpson “white Bronco chase.” In each instance, Tur and Gerrard were there first, adrenaline junkies determined to capture the latest breaking news. But the film is more arresting on the micro level, primarily as it examines Tur, who’s now retired and living quietly in rural northern California. In a series of compelling interviews, she visibly wallows in regret over her hectic, often rage-filled former life, which she alternately blames on the testosterone then flowing through her body and the fact that she was physically abused as a child by her father, a person she hated but who nonetheless fears she’s turned into. The way Yoka offers a subtly empathetic look at this ambitious but deeply flawed individual (and in the latter stages of the film in particular) may sneak up on you. (2021, 103 min, DCP Digital) [Michael Glover Smith]


Offscreen Interview

I do not want to turn this website into the kind of joint where all I do is link to interviews that I’m giving to other publications. And one day soon, perhaps when I am done editing RELATIVE, I promise I will get back to writing about other people’s movies — something that I genuinely miss doing. In the meantime, I would be remiss if I didn’t link to this interview David Hanley conducted with me for the great Canadian film journal Offscreen. This is the longest and most in-depth interview I’ve ever done. It encompasses my entire career as a filmmaker to date:

https://offscreen.com/view/a-conversation-with-independent-filmmaker-michael-glover-smith


Talking RELATIVE with Hollywood Chicago’s Pat McDonald

Pat “Uber Critic” McDonald interviewed me about my forthcoming feature, RELATIVE, at http://HollywoodChicago.com. He also gave me the chance to talk about some of my favorite artists including Agnes Varda and Bob Dylan. It’s always a pleasure talking to Pat! Listen to our two part podtalk interview below:


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Seven (Fincher) – B+
2. Manhunter* (Mann) – A-
3. The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Walsh) – A-
4. Rachel Getting Married* (Demme) – B+
5. The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It* (Chaves) – C-
6. Gates of Heaven (Morris) – A-
7. The Thin Blue Line (Morris) – A+
8. Her Man* (Garnett) – A
9. Spring Blossom* (Lindon) – B
10. Shiva Baby* (Seligman) – B+

* – first-time watch


Eric Rohmer Roundtable on Cinecast

I am currently neck-deep in pre-production on RELATIVE, my fourth feature film, which will shoot later this month and I realize that it may be a minute before I am able to make any substantial updates to this blog. In the meantime, you may be interested in checking out this Eric Rohmer Roundtable that I participated in last month for Cinecast, the Cine-file Chicago podcast, with critics Ben Sachs and Scott Pfeiffer. We focus mainly on the “Tales of the Four Seasons”, Rohmer’s great, late cycle of films that has recently been restored/re-released but we also talk about his entire career (and I was particularly gratified to be able to compare THE AVIATOR’S WIFE with the work of Alfred Hitchcock). I think this is a fun listen: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rohmer-roundtable-malmkrog-new-releases/id1557125005?i=1000520567950


The Last Ten Movies I Saw

1. Lingua Franca* (Sandoval) – A-
2. Flowers of Shanghai (Hou) – A+
3. RK/RKAY* (Kapoor) – B
4. Gentleman Jim (Walsh) – A
5. Alien vs. Predator* (Anderson) – B
6. Pauline at the Beach (Rohmer) – A+
7. Le Beau Mariage (Rohmer) – A
8. Murder on Middle Beach* (Hamburg) – B+
9. The Aviator’s Wife (Rohmer) – A+
10. I Wake Up Screaming* (Humberstone) – B+

* – first-time watch


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