New Distribution Deals
Nicholas Ray, the man who directed Rebel Without a Cause, In a Lonely Place, Johnny Guitar, and Bigger Than Life, passed away in 1979, but a restored version of We Can't Go Home Again, his last, experimental film, will have its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on Sunday, September 4, followed by a screening at the New York Film Festival. And now Oscillope Laboratories has acquired the film for distribution, as reported by indieWIRE.
Ray made We Can't Go Home Again in collaboration with his students at SUNY Binghamton in New York. and it was shown as a work-in-progress at Cannes in 1973, where film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum saw it. Rosenbaum later viewed an unfinished workprint and wrote about it for The Soho News in 1980: "The film oscillates between the lives, political engagements and problems of the students and Ray’s own problems and ambivalent stances in relation to them and himself. … The multiple images that were combined via rear projection photography are often extraordinary."
Oscilloscope has also picked up Don't Expect Much, a documentary by Susan Ray (the late director's wife) that "reveals Ray’s unique approach to directing and examines the relationship between his life and art in the latter years of his life." Both films will be screened at festivals, in repertory houses, at universities and film archives, and in special engagements before hitting DVD and digital platforms next year. They'll also be shown on cable channel Turner Classic Movies in late October.
In other acquisition news:
Crazy Horse will open in New York on January 18, followed by a national roll-out, via Zipporah Films. Frederick Wiseman's new documentary examines a famous cabaret in Paris as a new show is rehearsed and performed. Many naked breasts and buttocks are featured. (indieWIRE)
Rid of Me will open in theaters this fall, via Phase 4 and Submarine. The black comedy, written and directed by James Westby, stars Katie O'Grady as "an awkward young woman trying too hard to perfect her marriage, amongst a new group of friends." (Thompson on Hollywood)
My pick of a crowded week is Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, directed by Tsui Hark.
Tsui is one of the key figures in modern Hong Kong cinema, coming to international prominence as the producer of John Woo's A Better Tomorrow in 1986 and the director of his own masterpiece, Peking Opera Blues, the same year. Tsui went on to create two highly-influential films that began various sequels, first The Swordsman and then Once Upon a Time in China.
The Blade, his last indisputably great film, arrived in 1995, but since then Tsui has struggled to reach the same heights. He experimented in Hollywood with two unimpressive action flicks starring Jean-Claude Van Damme (Double Team, Knock Off) and then returned to Hong Kong, making a string of films that have been inconsistent at best; Time and Tide and Seven Warriors are the most noteworthy from the past 11 years.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is his best film since The Blade. Andy Lau stars as the titular investigator, brought out of exile by a soon-to-be Empress (Carina Lau) to solve a mysterious murder that could bring down the Tang Dynasty. The film showcases action sequences, choreographed by Sammo Hung, that are both intricate and extravagant. Lau has fun with his role, and so does Tsui; there's a sense of playfulness that's been missing from his recent historical epics, and it all adds up to a rather good adventure.
Detective Dee opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, expanding to San Francisco on September 16 and other key markets in the U.S. and Canada on September 23. Visit the official site for more information.
Other independent films opening this weekend:
A Good Old Fashioned Orgy. In this comedy, Jason Sudeikis decides to throw an epic summer bash that will never be forgotten by his friends.
Love Crime. Kristin Scott Thomas stars as a ruthless executive who brings on the innocent Ludivine Sagnier as her assistant. A mystery thriller, directed by Alain Corneau (Fear and Trembling), who died after the film was completed.
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. A documentary investigating the cryptic tiles that have mysteriously appeared in city streets across the United States and South America.
Saving Private Perez. In Mexico, a crime lord sets out to find his brother, who has gone missing. An adventure comedy, directed by Beto Gomez.
Seven Days in Utopia. In a small town in Texas, golfer Lucas Black sets out to find his swing, which has gone missing. Robert Duvall is ready to help. An inspirational drama, directed by Matt Russell.
Trailer of the Week
Opening today in New York, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life "recounts the colorful life story of French chanteur and provocateur Serge Gainsbourg, known as much for his hugely outrageous antics in public as he was for his taboo-busting, often-hilarious song lyrics and orchestrations." Eric Elmosnino stars as the titular, real-life Gainsbourg, with Lucy Gordon as Jane Birkin and Laetitia Casta as Brigitte Bardot. Joann Sfar, a comic book artist, directed.
For a taste of the movie -- and life in Paris in the 1960s -- take a gander at the trailer, embedded below. (It's very cool and sexy, and makes me want to see the movie.) Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, will open in Los Angeles and Irvine, California on Friday, and then roll out across the country in the coming weeks. Visit the official site to see future playdates.