A couple of weeks ago, Deadline's Anthony D'Alessandro reported that a screening of Martin Scorsese's Silence has been arranged for 400 Jesuit priests in Rome at the end of this month. Today, as the December 23 limited release approaches, the New York Times Magazine has posted Paul Elie's extensive backgrounder on the film, its maker and its cast and crew. Silence is based on Shusaku Endo's 1966 novel about two Jesuit priests (Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield) who travel from Portugal to Japan in the 17th century in search of their mentor (Liam Neeson). Elie suggests that the story "locates, in the missionary past, so many of the religious matters that vex us in the post-secular present—the claims to universal truths in diverse societies, the conflict between a profession of faith and the expression of it, and the seeming silence of God while believers are drawn into violence on his behalf."

Elie also notes that, as a boy, Scorsese himself wanted to be a missionary. "'I think fast, I move fast, and I think it has something to do with the medication I was given for asthma,' Scorsese said. 'It affected the way I breathe, the way I think. I needed to pull back. Film did that for me, and so did the church. They slowed me down. They allowed me to meditate. They gave me a different sense of time.'"

Meantime, via the Playlist's Kevin Jagernauth, Michael Chabon has told Vulture's Boris Kachka that Scorsese's Frank Sinatra project, for which Chabon wrote the screenplay, will most likely not happen. The Irishman, though, perhaps featuring both Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, still seems to be on.

MORE READING


We have a lot to catch up with, so we can be glad there's a holiday weekend just around the corner.

Farran Smith Nehme points us to a piece Esquire ran in 1963 in which Federico Fellini readily confesses "that the Via Veneto shown in La Dolce Vita is fictitious, a product of my imagination, an allegorical fresco built in a nonexistent dimension." The Rome he knew when he first arrived before WWII "was the slightly squalid district of furnished rooms and unsavory boardinghouses near the station, a district haunted by poverty-stricken provincials, prostitutes, tricksters and Chinese necktie hawkers." Eventually, though, "I finally sallied forth to conquer Via Veneto."


The Elevator from Davide Rapp


Catherine Grant alerts us to a pretty spectacular online exhibition, Sergei Eisenstein: My Art in Life, a collection of photos, film clips and texts put together by Oksana Bulgakowa.

"It seems probable that no American film director ever rattled the American mainstream more than Orson Welles, and none of his features rattled that mainstream more than his two versions of Macbeth, made successively out of the same material he shot in 1947, and released successively in the US in 1948 and 1950." That's Jonathan Rosenbaum in an essay that accompanies the recent release on Blu-ray from Olive Films. He's also posted his 1992 piece on Welles's Othello (1951).

I've only just recently come across Kenneth George Godwin's site, where he's posted a wealth of material on the making of two films by David Lynch, Eraserhead (1977) and Dune (1984).

For Sight & Sound, Paul Cuff has drawn up an amazing timeline for Abel Gance's Napoleon (1927), from its conception, through its production all the way to its restorations and re-releases. Fantastic photos, too.

Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon is, of course, one of cinema's most heralded unrealized projects and, as Vulture's been revisiting several abandoned visions over the past few days, Bilge Ebiri considers what happens when their completed by someone else. Cary Fukunaga, for example, is working on Napoleon as a miniseries for HBO. "It’ll probably be good. It may even be great. I’ll most certainly watch it. But needless to say, this won’t be Kubrick’s work. Putting his name in there is just clever branding, which just rubs a Kubrick obsessive like me wrong in all sorts of ways."

More at Vulture from Bilge Ebiri: "When talking about great movies that never got made, save a special place at the table for Michael Mann’s Gates of Fire, an epic about the Battle of Thermopylae that the filmmaker was attached to direct in the early 2000s."

Another project that never got off the ground was an adaptation of J.D. Salinger's short story, "For Esmé—with Love and Squalor." And it got pretty close, too. Jill Lapore tells the story in the New Yorker.


A GIRL LIKE I: An Unruly Duet from Catherine Grant


"Nobody went to war like Louise Brooks did, the woman whose Hollywood rebellion lasted for decades," writes Pamela Hutchinson for Little White Lies. "The actress is now celebrated for her sexy, Jazz Age style, her bravura performances in a few unforgettable silent films, and her frank, perceptive writing on the cinema." Now, "110 years after she was born in Cherryvale, Kansas, her robust battle against the studio system is still remarkable." Hutchinson's also written up a list for the BFI, "10 great silent epics."

Women and Hollywood has posted an excerpt from Silent Women: Pioneers of Cinema, a new collection edited by Melody Bridges and Cheryl Robson.

Back to Sight & Sound, where Ginette Vincendeau goes deep and long: "Just like its American counterpart, French film noir is the genre par excellence of masculinity in crisis, brimming with vulnerable men drawn to crime, ‘victims’ of alluring females, or preys to a cruel fate."

The introduction to Fredrik Gustafsson's new book, The Man from the Third Row: Hasse Ekman, Swedish Cinema and the Long Shadow of Ingmar Bergman, is freely accessible.

Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, David M. Higgins argues that "Doctor Strange is astonishing because it captures—on an intimate level, by means of extraordinary visual and auditory effects—one of the fundamental yearnings of our cultural moment. In the aftermath of the US presidential election, people throughout the world (myself included) are experiencing a post-apocalyptic moment of shock: this has already happened, and also, at the same time, this can’t be happening."

"Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men arrived in theaters on Christmas Day, 2006, and immediately announced itself as the best and bleakest sci-fi movie of the 21st Century," writes IndieWire's David Ehrlich. "It has also proven to be the most prescient, anticipating a time when Britain has closed its borders, hateful isolationism has taken root, and xenophobia spores out of walled garden across the world. If once this story provided a window into a dark possibility, recent events have warped it into a funhouse mirror that reflects our new reality." Eventually, he gets around to interviewing Clare-Hope Ashitey who played the pivotal role of Kee.


TIFF launches its Save This Moment campaign


In this week's New Yorker, Giles Harvey profiles Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror, the "acclaimed and eerily clairvoyant series about the unintended consequences of technological innovation…. Zadie Smith considers it one of the best things to appear on British TV in decades. 'It’s the ultimate commentary on shit television by virtue of being head and shoulders above everything else,' she wrote in an email."

Brandon Harris in the New Yorker on HyperNormalisation: "After nearly four decades making television and the occasional theatrical feature, [Adam] Curtis has settled into his role as British state broadcasting’s grand maestro of Internet-bound, all-archival, contrarian agitprop, including 2015’s Bitter Lake, 2011’s All Watched Over by Machines of Love and Grace, 2009’s It Felt Like a Kiss, and 2002’s The Century of the Self, to name a few. His films posit that the official history of the 20th century—told to us by statesmen and newsreaders, amplified by the mainstream media in all its technologically enhanced forms—is the work of 'managers of perception,' people who avoid telling the public the uncomfortable and complicated truths about the world in order to retain power within a status quo that isn’t ever quite what it seems to be…. Curtis is one of the most dynamic of contemporary editors, displaying gifts of intellectual montage that create art out of detritus."

Curtis has also contributed to the Guardian's survey on current nonfiction filmmaking: "To be honest, I find the best documentary reporting these days in things that don’t really classify as documentaries. Things like South Park, movies like The Big Short and American Honey, and the This Is England series." Also part of this package, a slew of Guardian contributors argue that "this is the golden age of documentaries" and filmmakers such as Laura Poitras write about their favorites.

Meantime, GQ presents its annotated list of the "21 Documentaries from the 21st Century Everyone Should See."

Back in the Guardian, Nick Shave profiles Ennio Morricone, "one of cinema’s most prolific and stylistically diverse composers."

Criterion's posted Bilge Ebiri's essay on Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990 and featuring, you'll remember, Martin Scorsese as Vincent van Gogh) and Miranda July's personal and passionate appreciation of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love (2002). More on that one from Jake Cole at Movie Mezzanine and, here in Keyframe, Duncan Gray. Related viewing: Composer Jon Brian tells Criterion about the rhythms (2'56") and the film's relationship to Hollywood musicals (2'40").

The latest to review the reissue of Robert Bresson's Notes on the Cinematograph and the new collection, Bresson on Bresson: Interviews, 1943-1983, is Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club: "Bresson’s films fascinated writers of every generation and political stripe, from the notorious collaborationist Occupation-era newspaper Je suis partout and the seminal postwar weekly L’Écran français to the initially conservative upstarts of the French New Wave and their eventual left-wing successors at Cahiers du Cinéma. But though it’s a treat to read this unique filmmaker in conversation with some of his most storied admirers (including New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard and important but under-translated critics like Jean Douchet and Serge Daney), there is a sameness to the questions and answers. Bresson was notorious for often insisting on editing his interviews. He preferred generalities."


Trailer for Eureka's release of E.A. Dupont's Varieté (1925)


We don't flag too many festival reports around here, but Ted Fendt's on this year's Viennale is one you wan't want to miss. Also in the Notebook: Forrest Cardamenis on Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Dekalog (1988).

Speaking up at the Talkhouse Film for the underrated and overlooked are Bruce LaBruce on Peter Bogdanovich's Daisy Miller (1974), David Lowery on Duncan Jones's Warcraft (2016) and Stephen Cone on André Téchiné's Being 17 (2016).

Writing for Bright Lights, Mike Thorn argues that George Lucas's Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) "is every bit the work of an obsessive auteur; not only does it reinterpret and reconfigure the expectations of its established series, but it also brings a set of radical ideas to the cinematic medium at large."

The Metrograph's posted an excerpt from an unpublished memoir by John Ford's older brother, Francis. Also: Nick Pinkerton on Ezra Edelman's O.J.: Made in America.

The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA), "Alamo Drafthouse’s non-profit bank of over 3,500 features (and almost twice as many trailers), has avenged the neglected red-headed stepchildren of martial arts, horror, and categories you’ve only hallucinated about," writes Max Kyburz. Also in Brooklyn Magazine: Henry Stewart on Bay Ridge and Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Eli Goldfarb on Todd Rohal's Uncle Kent 2 (2016).

José Arroyo has posted notes on George Cukor's A Woman's Face (1941) and Susan and God (1940) as well as on cinema's influence on mid-20th century art.

Calum Marsh talks with Paul Verhoeven for the National Post.

At the Chiseler: David Cairns on "Unfunny Men," Dan Callahan on Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Jim Knipfel on Onslow Stevens.


Mifune: The Last Samurai director Steven Okazaki and producer Rikiya Mifune at AFI Fest 2016; the Japan Times' Mark Schilling has more on the doc's making


Anxious to get awards season rolling, the Hollywood Reporter has begun hosting its annual roundtables. The actresses: Amy Adams, Annette Bening, Naomie Harris, Taraji P. Henson, Isabelle Huppert, Natalie Portman, and Emma Stone; and the documentary filmmakers: Ezra Edelman (O.J.: Made in America), Werner Herzog (Into the Inferno and Lo and Behold), Kirsten Johnson (Cameraperson), Josh Kriegman (Weiner), Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro) and Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated).

IN OTHER NEWS


"The prestigious Louis-Delluc Prize, which will be handed out on 14 December by a jury of critics and leading figures from the seventh art, chaired by Gilles Jacob, will this year see seven features go head to head for the title of best film," reports Fabien Lemercier for Cineuropa:

The entry on this year's European Film Awards has been updated, following the announcement of the winners of the Excellence Awards.

"Robert Redford says he will retire from acting once he completes the two projects he is working on," reports Alan Evans for the Guardian. "Redford’s two remaining performances will be opposite Jane Fonda in Our Souls at Night, which he described as 'a love story for older people who get a second chance in life,' and Old Man with a Gun, which Redford said would be 'a lighter piece with Casey Affleck and Sissy Spacek.'" Redford then intends to focus on directing.

"Ever dream of making a short film with an icon of cinema like Werner Herzog?" asks Zack Sharf at IndieWire. "Well here’s your chance to do just that, in Cuba no less. Black Factory Cinema is now accepting applications for its fourth practical worship, 'Filming in Cuba With Werner Herzog.'"

"The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) has announced the television nominees for the 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards…. HBO leads the television honors with 22 nominations, followed by ABC and Netflix with 14 each, and FX with 12."

The Removals (2016) is now out on VHS. Director Nicholas Rombes: "This is not about nostalgia. This is not about the past. This is about how The Removals was meant to be viewed. On tape."

IN THE WORKS


The Make a Film Foundation, which grants "film wishes to children who have serious or life-threatening medical conditions by teaming them with film industry professionals who help them to create short film legacies," has helped Anthony Jonathan Conti realize The Black Ghiandola, which is "about a young man risking his life to save a young girl he has grown to love, after his family has been killed in the Apocalyptic world of Zombies." Lending a hand have been David Lynch, Catherine Hardwicke, Sam Raimi, Laura Dern, Johnny Depp, J.K. Simmons and many, many others.


Trailer for Del Kathryn Barton's RED with Cate Blanchett


Variety's John Hopewell talks with Sergei Loznitsa about Austerlitz—do see Michaël Van Remoortere's piece at photogénie, by the way—and the films he made before it. Then the conversation turns to A Gentle Creature, inspired by a short story by Dostoyevsky. Loznitsa is currently editing what he calls "a contemporary story about a Russian woman and the injustice around her. It starts when she receives a package from a prison. It’s a package that she sent to her husband in prison, and it was returned without explanation. So she tries to find out what happened to him. And after that? [Laughs] Welcome to cinema! It’s a drama, phantasmagory, grotesque, tragedy and comedy."

OBITS


"Although she began to achieve success only after she had reached 40, the singer Sharon Jones, who has died of pancreatic cancer aged 60, had spent her life working towards a musical career," writes Adam Sweeting for the Guardian. "It was not until 2002 that she released her first album, Dap-Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, after which she went on to record a further five albums. In 2014, Jones and the Dap-Kings earned a Grammy nomination for their album Give the People What They Want. The next year, they released a Christmas album, It’s a Holiday Soul Party, and this summer, the compilation album Miss Sharon Jones! was released, featuring music used on the soundtrack of the documentary film of the same name, directed by Barbara Kopple."

Since the election, "as 'How are you doing?' has undergone its stunning transformation from empty pleasantry to imperative concern, I’ve had more recourse than usual to share with friends this performance of the Mose Allison classic 'I Don’t Worry About a Thing,' which has been a longtime personal anthem," writes Alex Balk at the Awl. Allison, who died last week at the age of 89, "was one of the last living links to a world in which traditional jazz and blues forms were still a central part of popular culture."

"The Irish writer Sir William Trevor has died at the age of 88," reports Sian Cain in the Guardian. "Trevor, the author of more than 15 novels and many more short stories, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize four times, most recently for The Story of Lucy Gault in 2002, the same year he was knighted for his services to literature. He also won the Whitbread prize three times and frequently contributed short stories to The New Yorker magazine. His skill with the form drew comparisons with Chekhov, Maupassant and James Joyce." In 1999, Atom Egoyan wrote and directed an adaptation of Trevor's 1994 novel Felicia's Journey.

LISTENING


On the latest episode of The Cinematologists, Dario Llinares and Melody Bridges discuss Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation (2003) and Neil Fox interviews Film Comment digital editor Violet Lucca.

Michael Shannon is Marc Maron's latest guest on the WTF Podcast (78'44").

VIEWING


Past Forward (12'47"), David O. Russell's black-and-white short film for Prada, features Allison Williams, Freida Pinto, Kuoth Wiel, John Krasinski, Connie Britton, Paula Patton and Sacha Baron Cohen.


Lessons for the No-Budget Feature from The Royal Ocean Film Society featuring Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright and more


"This November, Video Data Bank (VDB) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago celebrates forty years of supporting video art and artists with the launch of VDB TV: Decades, a five-part curated screening series exploring the VDB’s unique archive, streamed for free on the VDB TV platform."

Jamie Stuart's first short film in two years is Glance (1'40").

At Newcity Film, Ray Pride's posted two videos that Cristi Puiu sent to last month's Chicago International Film Festival in appreciation of his being awarded the Golden Hugo for Sieranevada and the Silver Hugo for best director. "With these modest thank-yous, the 49-year-old has composed two captivating, funny, even moving short films."

ENDNOTES


The Film Doctor's posted a round of "new normal links." And the latest batch from John Wyver blends cinema- and media-themed pointers.