Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Girl Without Hands (September 21st and 22nd at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[THE GIRL WITHOUT HANDS screens Thursday September 21st at 8:50 pm and Friday September 22nd at 7:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

It’s a given in fairy tales that when someone makes a deal with a supernatural being, be it a witch or whatever the heck Rumplestiltskin is, there’s going to be a catch. In THE GIRL WITHOUT HANDS a poor woodsman trades “what is behind [his] mill” to an incognito Devil for wealth, thinking all he is giving up is his apple tree. What the woodsman doesn’t realize is, at the time the deal is struck, his daughter is in said apple tree, making her part of the package.

As is often the case with fairy tales in their purer forms (and this adaptations sticks fairly close to the Brothers Grimm text), this one is probably too dark and loaded with subtext to qualify as children’s fare. The idea of a father lopping his daughter’s hands off to make good on his deal with the Devil is certainly nightmare fuel. And when the handless girl eats pears from a Prince’s garden, it certainly seems suggestive of something else. Or maybe my mind’s just in the gutter, and sometimes a cigar (or pear) really is just a cigar (or pear).  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Repost: Halloween (September 21st and 22nd at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[HALLOWEEN screens Thursday September 21st at 6:45 pm and Friday September 22nd at 9:10 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.

Has it been 35 years? Really, THIRTY-FIVE YEARS! since I heard locker-room whispers around the NE Ohio high school I attended that there was a new movie out called HALLOWEEN, by that maverick director John Carpenter who had previously done that attention-getting, whacko low-budget science-fiction flick DARK STAR (a film-school project that had won bonus re-release to cash in the success of STAR WARS).

And HALLOWEEN was talked up by my youthful classmates as the coolest thing ever; all the guys on the football team were going to get stoned with their skank girlfriends and see it again on the weekend.

I took that rave with a slight bit of skepticism. Much as I admired DARK STAR, this was the late 1970s, remember. And Ohio kids would get stoned to go see a roadshow return engagement of THE SOUND OF MUSIC, as long as someone brought the keg and the dope and the skank girls. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Bill Made a Movie: An interview with 'Dave Made a Maze' director Bill Watterson

Interview by Bob Ignizio

Born in Cleveland, Bill Watterson (no, not the “Calvin and Hobbes” guy) eventually went west for a career in Hollywood. He worked his way up from the bottom, starting as a production assistant and eventually moving into acting and voice work. And with DAVE MADE A MAZE, Bill has added writing and directing to his resume.

The film is an original and fun mix of horror, comedy, and cult sensibilities in which an artist who can never finish anything builds a box fort in the middle of his apartment. Somehow, the fort is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside (sort of like the TARDIS of box forts, I guess), and is something of a maze, complete with booby traps and a minotaur.

I personally enjoyed the film quite a bit, and wanted to know a little more about Bill and his movie. Fortunately, he was gracious enough to answer my questions.

CIFF Announces Presentations Event Series Line-Up

[Press release from the Cleveland International Film Festival.]
The Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF) has unveiled the first three of its 2017-2018 Presentations event series. The series, now in its second year, celebrates independent film and filmmakers and strives to connect them to audiences. This year’s line-up includes:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Kekszakullu (September 7th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[KEKSZAKULLU screens Thursday September 7th at 6:45 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

The best scene in KEKSZAKALLU, and the one that best encapsulates what the film is about, is its very first. It takes place on the diving board of a public swimming pool, where we watch several adolescent boys enthusiastically launch themselves into the water below. Then an adolescent girl walks to the end and pauses, contemplating what it is she is about to do. She hesitates, and looks back. We never do find out if she takes the plunge.

The scene is a metaphor for the uncertainty that comes with the transition from childhood to adulthood, which this film seems to argue is more difficult and ambivalent for females than males. Various vignettes follow a small group of young women as they navigate this transition. There is little concern with traditional narrative or story, focusing more on creating an atmosphere in which to explore its central theme.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Repost: Menashe (opens September 1st at the Nightlight Cinema)

[MENASHE opens in Akron on Friday September 1st exclusively at The Nightlight Cinema.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

Joshua Weinstein didn't have an easy time making his movie MENASHE. The filmmaker drew his cast of nonprofessional actors from members of the Hasidic Jewish community in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Many had never even seen a movie before. Some signed on and then dropped out, fearing the disapproval of their synagogues and their children's schools.

Weinstein doesn't speak Yiddish, the language in which the film was made, so he had an on-set translator who read the lines to him in English. He stood far away from the actors, directing them through earpieces, in order not to attract attention in the cloistered enclave, which takes a skeptical view of modernity. Financing came sporadically, and the movie took nearly two years to complete.

The Queen of Spain (September 1st at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[THE QUEEN OF SPAIN screens Saturday September 1st at 7:00 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

A mix of cinematic nostalgia, farcical comedy, and political intrigue, Fernando Trueba’s THE QUEEN OF SPAIN never really congeals into a satisfying whole. The main plot concerns glamorous Spanish actress Macarena Granada (Penelope Cruz) returning to her home country after becoming a star in America only to find that her presumed dead lover Blas Fontiveros (Antonio Resines) is alive. Blas gets a job on the film Macarena is starring in, a biopic about Spain’s Queen Isabella, but quickly runs afoul of his ex-wife’s new beau, an officer in the Franco regime.  

Blas is sent off to do hard labor, and at the urging of his ex-wife, Macarena goes to visit him. As it becomes increasingly apparent that someone wants Blas not just imprisoned, but dead, Macarena hatches a plot with the cast and crew of the film to help Blas escape.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Whose Streets? (opens September 1st at The Capitol Theatre and The Nightlight Cinema)

[WHOSE STREETS? opens on Friday September 1st at The Capitol Theatre in Cleveland, and at The Nightlight Cinema in Akron.]

Review by Pamela Zoslov

It's been three years since Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, after being stopped for walking in the middle of the street and reportedly raising his hands in surrender. Brown's body was left to lie in the streets for hours. “It was a lynching,” said Brown's mother, Lesley McFadden. “My son was laying in the streets four and a half hours.”

The incident, one of more than 1,000 police killings that year in the U.S., became a flashpoint for protest and activism. WHOSE STREETS?, a documentary by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis, focuses on the aftermath of the Brown killing. Davis, a St. Louis artist, was filming the street protests and was joined by Folayan, a journalist who turned to film because she felt the news media wasn't accurately capturing the experience on the streets.

Cleveland Cinemas Rock Doc Series

[Press release from Cleveland Cinemas.]

Cleveland Cinemas will be hosting screenings of highly anticipated concert films and rock documentaries starting in September.
The films in this series are:
Tuesday, September 6th at 7:30 PM
Capitol Theatre (1390 W. 65th St., Cleveland)
Admission: $12.50
DAY OF THE GUSANO documents not only a historic Knotfest Mexico City performance of Slipknot, one of the most exciting live bands on the planet, but delves deeply into the lives of the band's fans as well. Slipknot's fans, better known as "maggots", are essential to the band's legacy. This highly anticipated show captures the chaos, excitement and community that has been cultivated over the past 20+ years.

Unlocked (opens September 1st at Tower City Cinemas)

[UNLOCKED opens in Cleveland on Friday September 1st exclusively at Tower City Cinemas.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

In this densely plotted political thriller, CIA agent Alice Racine (Noomi Rapace) is still dealing with guilt for a terrorist attack she couldn’t stop when she gets called back by her former superior (Michael Douglas) to help stop a biological attack. The virus being used, we are told, “may just trump Ebola for the nightmare trophy.” Overseeing the operation from afar with no shortage of snark is Bob Hunter (John Malkovich).

Unbeknownst to either Alice or Bob, another faction of rogue intelligence agents have a different plan in mind. It is these morally dubious individuals who pick Alice up and bring her back to interrogate a courier who is being sent by his Imam not to launch a terror attack, but to stop one. They plan to eliminate Alice once she gets the information they need from the courier, but she realizes what’s happening and manages to escape.