See James Franco + More in the New Trailer for Wim Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine

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Fresh off the theatrical release of his Oscar-nominated documentary Salt of the Earth, director Wim Wenders makes his next foray into narrative 3D filmmaking with the drama Every Thing Will Be Fine. Premiering at the Berlin Film Festival to tepid reviews, the film stars James Franco, Rachel McAdams, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Marie-Josée Croze. With a script by ith a script penned by Bjørn Olaf Johannessen, the film will star James Franco as Tomas, a writer whom we follow for twelve years after he accidentally causes the death of a child and is forced to examine his life, as well as that of Kate, the child’s mother. 

Today we see the first international trailer for the film, alongside a slew of new stills from the film. Check it out for yourself below and read our recent interview with Wenders HERE.

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Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado on Capturing ‘The Salt of the Earth’

Salt of the Earth, Film, Wim Wenders
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“My reason from the beginning, and why I made this, is that I like something so much and want to share it with other people. That, in the end, is the basic drive,” says iconic German filmmaker Wim Wenders when speaking to me about his Academy Award-nominated documentary Salt of the Earth. As an essential presence in cinema for nearly a half-century, in recent years it’s Wenders’ documentary features—such as 2011s Pina—that have begun garnering as much acclaim as his incredible body of narrative films. Whether it’s his Palme d’Or-winning masterpiece of endless longing Paris, Texas, his an existential poem of morality Wings of Desire, or an innovative ode to Pina Bausch with Pina, Wenders’ films possess a melancholy and emotional undercurrent that stems from his complex passion for his subjects.

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With The Salt of the Earth, Wenders collaborated with filmmaker Juliano Ribeiro Salgado to investigate the life and work of his father, acclaimed photographer Sebastião Salgado. For over four decades, Sebastião has been traveling the world on an artistic and anthropological mission to capture the ever-changing face of humanity. Through his beguiling black-and-white photos, featured in his countless photo series and books, he has witnessed many of the major historical world events of the last 50 years—his journey as a photographer and the experiences he’s endured on his travels as harrowing and emotionally devastating as they have been rewarding. Now in a new period of his ever-evolving career, Sebastião is embarking on an epic project to re-discover nature’s beauty across the globe, and to restore the land on which he was raised in Brazil.

Composed of Sebastião’s photographic work, his expeditions into some of the most undiscovered locations in the world, and intimate meditations on his emotional and artistic experience, The Salt of the Earth beautifully merges Wenders and Juliano’s sensibilities as filmmakers. Visually-stunning in its own right, we’re given, not only a look at Sebastião’s staggering work, but a portrait of the man behind the images and strength in which it took to make them come to life.

A few months back, I sat down with Wenders and Juliano to discuss their rocky collaborative beginnings, the injustice of aestheticizing misery, and their necessary radical approach.

Juliano, how and why did you decide upon this project as your next film? Did you have any reservations about making a film about your father and penetrating the artistic space between the two of you?

Juliano Ribeiro Salgado: That’s the most difficult question you could ask, actually. I didn’t want to make a film about my father, I thought it was too early to actually get there. But there was a succession of happy events that led to making the film. In 2009 Wim came through with some Italian friends and my father called me and told me, “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

Wim Wenders: Yes, it all started when I met Sebastião in 2009. These Italian friends of mine knew him, and I told them it was a crying shame that for a long time he had been my favorite photographer yet we had never met. So I asked them if they could make a connection. When we met, there was no thought of a movie, it was strictly to get to know each other. [turns to Juliano] Then I met you at this dinner. Father and son had a project going and Father and German friend were about to eventually have a project going, and then we threw all our cards together. We just tried to make our lies match. We have different recollections of how it all started.

I take it you knew of Wim’s work before to meeting him.

JRS: Of course, he’s an amazing filmmaker. His films have marked me very strongly—Alice in the Cities, The State of Things, Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas, and Pina. Not only is he a great filmmaker, but he’s one of the great documentary filmmakers as well. So I wanted to do something with Sebastião, but at the time I felt it was a bit dangerous for me to get that close to my dad. We went to Brazil together and I was following him as he was doing one of his Genesis projects. I really didn’t want to go, because I thought it would just be him and I and something would go wrong, but I filmed him and things were actually quite nice. When I came back I showed him the footage I’d edited and he was very touched. Something started happening through those images, so I traveled with him again.

How did you collaborate while shooting and merge your footage?

WW: We didn’t.

JRS: Well we did, but that was four years after that meeting. 

WW: It was four years because we never shot together. He did his shoot mostly in remote places and I did my shoot in Paris and Brazil over the years.

JRS: Sometimes we shot in Brazil at the same time but with a different crew. However, we had an intuition in common. So what really made the bond or the link between us was the common idea that the stories Sebastião tells in the film, when we comes back from his trips, they had a very powerful message. Also, there was something to transmit from those stories about his experience that was unique. Although we didn’t know how we were going to shoot it, there was this idea that those stories, mixed with the photography, was a very important thing to share and it could be very powerful cinematic material—the sounds, the voice, those images, all subjective. So we started with this idea and we had a faint idea of what the general story would be, but it really all happened between the edits and the shoots.

Did the film’s structure come about as it went along or did that happen in the editing process?

WW: We didn’t have a structure; we both shot as much as he could. Each of his shoots had a structure in itself because of where they traveled, but combined with my shoots, it didn’t make a movie. There wasn’t an arc and it didn’t have dramaturgy, so we only started to make a movie together when we were editing and realized we’d never make a common movie that way. With his material and mine it would never be a movie unless we took a radical approach. 

JRS: It was actually really difficult to share and sit together and decide on the cuts and the content. It’s quite unusual, as a director, you never have someone that’s doing exactly the same thing. It took us a year.

WW: And you don’t want anyone else to tell you where to cut. We didn’t get along for a while, then we realized if we could possibly get along we would make a much better movie than each of us could do alone.

Wim, can you tell me about the first time you came across Sebastião’s work and why it moved you so strongly?

WW: Rewind to the late 80’s. I didn’t know the name Salgado, and I didn’t know his work. I lived in Los Angeles and walked by this gallery on La Brea Avenue, saw these photographs in the window, and went straight in. These were pictures from the Goldmine series. They were in the window of the gallery, and I went inside and saw the whole series. As it was a commercial gallery, I decided to buy one. It took me a while to decide because they were all fabulous, and this photographer was really something. I thought he must have been a great adventurer because you don’t make a series like this in a place that insane if not. So then I bought this print and as I was about to leave, the gallerist got cocky and told me there were more pictures of his and pulled another series from the drawer. Those were pictures from very different scenery with a very different subject. 

Shooting in the goldmine was adventurous, but the subjects in those photographs were there on their own free will. It was wild, it was the wild west in Brazil. But these other pictures were from a very different place and from a humane mission to report on the famine. This series touched me even more than the Goldmine series and I walked out of the gallery with two prints—which was far more than I could have possibly spent, but I wanted these two pictures and have lived with them in my room ever since. I hung them right away and for a while those were the only two pictures I had hanging in my work room. They traveled with me whenever I moved. From then on I made sure I knew all his books and exhibitions. I actually almost met him once in Brazil in the 90’s. There was a rumor that he was somewhere and I was in Brazil at the time, so I made an effort but as it turned out he had already left again.

JRS: When you go to Wim’s place in Berlin, the first thing you see in his office is actually the photo of that lady in Sahel

WW: She’s traveled with me for a long time.

In your documentaries, the subjects that you choose are other artists, those whose work has hit you in a very visceral way. Would you say what compels you to make these films is a desire to explore the depths of the work of someone you admire, as well as to understand just why they’ve affected you so?

WW: There are a lot of reasons to make a documentary, and for a lot of people, it’s because they don’t agree with something or they want to shed light on an issue that needs attention. Sometimes it’s criticism, which is an important reason to want to make a documentary, but my reason from the beginning, and why I made this, is that I like something so much and want to share it with other people. That, in the end, is the basic drive. That’s why I went to Cuba for Buena Vista or Tokyo to meet Yohji or Wuppertal to shoot with Pina and Paris for Sebastião. I want to spread a virus that caught me, these good viruses. I seriously think the last great adventure left on this earth is the adventure of creation more than anything else. I’m very curious how other people in different professions get there and how they have their creative adventure.

Juliano, your mother has always been a tremendous driving force in your father’s work yet is considerably less known. Was it important for you to honor that and show her influence?

JRS: There are two things. One is that my parents really shared a lot of their decisions together, as we say in the film. They shared life decisions and artistic decisions—how to conceptualize the work, what photos to choose, etc. She designs the books, chooses the sequences for the books, but also the exhibits. There’s also all the things we don’t speak about in the movie, like Sebastião not being there for a long time, but she was always there, and she’s really the center point for all this family story. So she was very, very important, but usually people don’t want to know about her because they only want to know about who took the photos. So it was very important for us to bring her back into the picture and make her part of the story, which is only fair.

After all, it was with her camera that he took his first photo.

JRS: Yeah, he took her camera and never gave it back.

How did you both go about sorting through Sebastião’s entire lifetime of work and settling on the series and photographs you wanted to expound upon?

JRS: We had two shoots. There was Wim speaking with Sebastião about all the books, and then the second shoot was more specific—and that’s when Wim had the great idea of bringing Sebastião behind the teleprompter and isolating him from the rest of the crew and just showing the photos. We had to select a number of reportage that would tell his story, so at this moment there had already been a time when we had to choose the photos that were significant enough. It was a lot of pictures that were very tough and a lot of moments that were very difficult, but we didn’t want to have a naive point of view of the work. Sebastião had seen the work for what it is and it’s very important to show that experience fully.

How did he feel about revisiting these photographs and delving back into some of his most painful memories?

WW: I worked with him mainly in Paris. We did these interviews, slowly covering the entire range of his work for a couple of weeks, and they were done conventionally. But in these two weeks, I realized that he was a great storyteller and was much better when he forgot I was there, when he forgot the cameras were there, and when he was really in his memory. This obviously wasn’t the first time he’d told these stories in his life, and somehow with this conventional method, it was less impressive than when he’d forget we were all there and it would be very intense. So I kept thinking about how we could get more to the core of that and how I can get him to forget talking to me and the camera, how he could enter his own past and the photos more purely and have a rapport with the audience instead of me and the camera. 

Then one night, I don’t know how I came up with it, but I thought of the teleprompter, or a reformed teleprompter where there was not text on it but photographs. The beauty of the teleprompter is that it is invisible, so Sebastião only saw his own images and he was in a dark room. He did not see the camera, he did not see another person, and I could operate the photographs from behind a computer. So together with Juliano, we made a selection. We realized we couldn’t do another round with every photo, as I knew everything from the first passage, now we had a more concentrated approach.

Seeing the photos on their own, one usually identifies with the subject, feeling the emotion they’re portraying and reacting to the subject’s experience. However, your film explores something we don’t usually see, which is how affected the person taking the photo is—was that an idea that intrigued you?

WW: That is an important argument, because you might know, Sebastião, for his entire life, has had to fight the reproach that he was aestheticizing misery. So if you work with him and you present him with his work, you realize that not even for a single second does he talk about aesthetics, framing, or beauty. He strictly talks about the people—that’s his only interest. He’s identifies incredibly with them, so you find a complete lack of any aesthetic intention. It comes out of him, and he has, of course, the experience and it’s built into his blood, but he’s not driven by it at all. That’s when you realize how bloody wrong and how intellectually wrong the approach of aestheticizing misery really is; it is out of the minds of people who cannot identify with other people and that’s their problem.

JRS: Sebastião real talent is not the black and white or the compositions, it’s, as Wim said, spending a lot of time with the people. He has relationships and friendships with these people, he feels their hope or hopelessness, and he can sense when something is funny or scary. Whatever way he’s feeling in the much more complex emotional palette, he’s capable of putting the camera on that. When you see the photo, you see what he’s seeing most of the time. They’re beautiful, and there is a real bond, so that’s what you’re seeing in these people—his admiration or empathy.

Coming into the film, where you interested in exploring the father/son aspect of the story?

WW: No, because it was really their own subject. I saw it, I watched it, and sometimes felt it was good that I was there as a third person present to keep them from digging too deep into the father son relationship. In a strange way it was a whole issue on its own. There are some movies like My Architect, but it very quickly becomes the central thing, and from the beginning we realized and agreed that it shouldn’t be the focus. Being the son gave him different access and a different point of view for his father, but we all thought it shouldn’t become a driving force behind the film. It was good that I was sometimes there because the two of them could have gotten lost in father / son issues, which any father and son would get any time they work on something. 

JRS: My relationship with Sebastião actually changed after the making of the film, and it came through the presence of a third person and the fact that Wim was here and that he had shot all of these scenes where Sebastião is telling his story. When we edited the four hour long cut, seeing rough of the rough cut of all those interviews and watching him understanding all those things he went through, something clicked at that point. When we met again we were at a different stage of our relationship and we became friends. So somehow, for me, Wim’s presence was so necessary. 

Listen to an Ideal Soundtrack for an Imagined Love Story

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Rerun in honor of cupid’s fateful Saturday.

In Nicholas Ray’s wonderful film In a Lonely Place, Humphrey Bogart, as Dixon Steele says, “A good love scene should be about something else besides love. For instance, this one. Me fixing grapefruit. You sitting over there, dopey, half-asleep. Anyone looking at us could tell we’re in love.” And when it comes to cinematic depictions of the heart’s great affliction, we’ve seen everything from the existential romantic longings that crush our soul, the ecstatically thrilling tales of love that spans lifetimes, the beautiful friendship of soul mates that never fades, and the most brutal and horrific heartbreak that one never fully recovers from. For all the myriad ways love can transpose itself, cinema has offered us portraits that reflect our own unrequited desires and expose the true feelings residing inside us. But of course, any good love story would be incomplete without a soundtrack to linger through it and heighten our most visceral emotions.

And this weekend is Valentine’s Day, we’ve created our perfect soundtrack to the imaginary cinematic love story of our dreams. From the woefully sad sounds of 1950s heartbreakers to the ambient-electro melodies that wrap us in a state of pleasure, take a listen and imagine a painful romance that could be. Hear the soundtrack in full HERE.

Photo by Wim Wenders via

Past Present and Future, The Shangri Las

Motion Picture Soundtrack, Radiohead

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long, Otis Redding

Embraceable You, Charlie Parker

PB3, Big Black Delta

Everything to Come, Eluvium

The Funeral Party, The Cure

Envelop, Julianna Barwick

#3, Aphex Twin

Alice, Tom Waits

Unravel, Bjork

Bizarre Love Triangle, New Order

These Arms of Mine, Otis Redding

Hyperballad, Bjork

I’m Your Man, Nick Cave

You Can Have Him, Nina Simone

The End of the World, Skeeter Davis

Nannou 2, Aphex Twin

Famous Blue Raincoat, Leonard Cohen

I’m Waiting Here, Lykkie Li and David Lynch

Glory Box, Portishead

Thinking About You, Radiohead

Everything You Do Is a Balloon, Boards of Canada

Blue Moon, Elvis Presley

Temptation, New Order

I Put a Spell on You, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Reciting the Airships, Eluvium

Warm in the Winter, Glass Candy

Just Squeeze Me, Duke Ellington

Under Your Spell, Desire

Pink Cigarette, Mr. Bungle

Crying, Roy Orbison

Funnel of Love, Wanda Jackson

Remember (Walking in the Sand), The Shangri Las

It’s Always You, Chet Baker

You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, Nina Simone

 

Getting Lost in Wim Wenders’ 1985 Ode to Yasujirô Ozu, ‘Tokyo-Ga’

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Although a German native and a staple of the country’s cinema, internationally beloved filmmaker Wim Wenders has always been a great explorer of foreign territory. Whether he’s shooting the sweeping deserts of the American Southwest with a romantic eye and pastiche fascination or the everyday intricacies and idiosyncratic wonders of modern Japanese culture, Wenders possesses a tremendous ability to impress his own poetic and beautifully melancholy voice into just about everywhere he travels.

And in 1983, the director traveled to Japan with the hopes of shooting a documentary feature called Tokyo-ga—a diary on film of his exploration further into the life and work of iconic Japanese filmmaker Yasujirô Ozu. He conducted interviews with Yuharu Atsuta (Ozu’s cinematographer) and visited his shooting locations, as well as showing us his exposition on the culture of contemporary Tokyo in comparison to the Japanese culture so heavily imbued in Ozu’s work. The resulting film is an homage to him and a journey to capture the essence of what it is Wenders has forever been so fascinated by in his work.

In speaking to the films, Wenders once said that for all the Japanese linage present in Ozu’s work, he is able to “recognize all families, in all the countries of the world, as well as my parents, my brother and myself.  For me, never before and never again since has the cinema been so close to its essence and its purpose: to present an image of man in our century, a usable, true and valid image, in which he not only recognizes himself but from which, above all, he may learn about himself.”

As Wenders takes us along on his travels, we go everywhere from Pachinko halls and wax food factories to observing rockabilly culture in Yoyogi park. It’s been said that:

More than anything, Wenders’ film plays out like a travelogue of a very personal artistic pilgrimage, in this case, to Ozu’s Tokyo. A potentially excellent double-bill counterpart to Chris Marker’s (who makes a brief appearance in the film) contemporaneous Japan-centric experimental fiction/documentary hybrid, Sans Soleil (1983), Tokyo-Ga reveals the perspective of a fascinated apprentice,

And although the film doesn’t seem to be streaming in one piece anywhere on the internet, you can certainly enjoy the wonder of Tokyo-Ga scene by scene. Set aside some quality time as you hibernate from the snow to enjoy a bit of Wenders. And if you’re really looking for an escape after, head to Hulu + to enjoy a wealth of Wenders—from Alice in the Cities to Wings of Desire.

Pachinko & Mu

Getting the Shot With Yuharu Atsuta

Wim Wenders and Chishu Ryu

Rockabilly Scene

“Only what’s there can exist, what’s real.”

Werner Herzog on his quest for ‘pure’ images.

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Two-Lane Kings: The 15 Best Movies on the Road

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“A lot of my films start off with road maps instead of scripts. Sometimes it feels like flying blind without instruments,” says iconic German director Wim Wenders. “You fly all night, and in the morning you arrive somewhere. That is: you have to try to make a landing somewhere so the film can end.” And as one of the most beloved and acclaimed masters of cinema, the majority of his early films fell into the grand and expansive category of the Road Movie. Whether it’s a drama about the fruitless search for the intangible American dream, the journey to sacrifice yourself and reunite the ones you love, or the act of running away from that which you’ve committed on the other side, throughout cinematic history, the road movie has served a vast array of narrative genres—spanning from violent pop-art thrillers to tranquil languid dramas.

As a place where the chaos of the world is forced to tame itself and adhere to the graceful restrictions of a parallel world, the road allows one’s mind to detach from the constant anxieties outside the blacktop. Wenders would describe it as a place of discovery, with travel as a “circular form” where there’s always “something of a waltz at the end of the road.” And throughout cinema, some of the most cherished works of art and some of the most influential films of the last hundred years have taken the form of the classic road picture. So as we wind into summer, the greatest time for long and winding endless trips across new borders and exploring into the abyss of the soul, let’s take a look back on some of the greatest  road movies to ever make their way onto the screen. From Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider to Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, here’s looking into the vast stretch beyond.

EASY RIDER, Dennis Hopper

After Easy Rider’s cross-country journey—with its radical, New Wave–style editing, outsider-rock soundtrack, revelatory performance by a young Jack Nicholson, and explosive ending—the American road trip would never be the same.

TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, Monte Hellman

But no summary can do justice to the existential punch of Two-Lane Blacktop. With its gorgeous widescreen compositions and sophisticated look at American male obsession, this stripped-down narrative from maverick director Monte Hellman is one of the artistic high points of 1970s cinema, and possibly the greatest road movie ever made.

MY OWN PRIVTE IDAHO, Gus van Sant

Visually dazzling and groundbreaking, My Own Private Idaho is a deeply moving look at unrequited love and life at society’s margins.

STRANGER THAN PARADISE, Jim Jarmusch

With its delicate humor and dramatic nonchalance, Jim Jarmusch’s one-of-a-kind minimalist masterpiece, Stranger Than Paradise, forever transformed the landscape of American independent cinema.

DETOUR, Edgar J. Ulmer

Detour is an example of material finding the appropriate form. Two bottom-feeders from the swamps of pulp swim through the murk of low-budget noir and are caught gasping in Ulmer’s net. They deserve one another. At the end, Al is still complaining: “Fate, for some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me, for no good reason at all.” Oh, it has a reason.

ALICE IN THE CITIES, Wim Wenders

Wim Wenders’s 1974 black-and-white road movie that marked the first installment of his Road Movie Trilogy and mirrors similar themes as his 1984 masterpiece Paris, Texas. The film tells the story of a German journalist traveling in the United States who becomes responsible for a nine-year-old girl as they travel through back through Europe to her grandmother. Filled with existential yearning and melancholic beauty this is a truly beautiful watch.    

PIERROT LE FOU, Jean Luc-Godard

This is no normal road trip: genius auteur Jean-Luc Godard’s tenth feature in six years is a stylish mash-up of consumerist satire, politics, and comic-book aesthetics, as well as a violent, zigzag tale of, as Godard called them, “the last romantic couple.” With blissful color imagery by cinematographer Raoul Coutard and Belmondo and Karina at their most animated, Pierrot le fou is one of the high points of the French New Wave, and was Godard’s last frolic before he moved ever further into radical cinema.

FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, Terry Gilliam

Director Terry Gilliam and an all-star cast headlined by Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro show no mercy in bringing Hunter S. Thompson’s excoriating dissection of the American way of life to the screen, creating a film both hilarious and savage.    

PARIS, TEXAS, Wim Wenders

What makes Paris, Texas and all of Wim’s work so special is that it is filled with so much yearning and so much restlessness; people aching so badly to find what it is they’re looking for. They’re all so hungry for love and connection and something to make them feel alive. Some of them find it in others and then some of them realize even if they did—would it even make them feel better? Or are they destined to eternally feel that hole inside? 

BADLANDS, Terrence Malick

The film introduced many of the elements that would earn Malick his passionate following: the enigmatic approach to narrative and character, the unusual use of voice-over, the juxtaposition of human violence with natural beauty, the poetic investigation of American dreams and nightmares. This debut has spawned countless imitations, but none have equaled its strange sublimity.

NATURAL BORN KILLERS, Oliver Stone

Stone is not making a geek show, with closeups of blood and guts. Like all good satirists, he knows that too much realism will weaken his effect. He lets you know he’s making a comedy…Stylistically, the film is a cinematic bazaar, combining color and black and white, film and video, 35mm and Super 8, sitcom style and animated cartoons, fiction and newsreels. They’re throwing stuff at the screen by the gleeful handfuls.    

DOWN BY LAW, Jim Jarmusch

Described by Jarmusch as a “neo-Beat noir comedy,” Down by Law is part nightmare and part fairy tale, featuring sterling performances and crisp black-and-white cinematography by the esteemed Robby Müller.

TASTE OF CHERRY, Abbas Kiarostami

Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry is an emotionally complex meditation on life and death. Middle-aged Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) drives through the hilly outskirts of Tehran—searching for someone to rescue or bury him. 

BOTTLE ROCKET, Wes Anderson

Bottle Rocket is a charming, hilarious, affectionate look at the folly of dreamers, shot against radiant southwestern backdrops, and the film that put Anderson and the Wilson brothers on the map.

WILD AT HEART, David Lynch

This is my road picture, except there isn’t a role for Bob Hope.

From the Vault: Richard Hell’s Thumbs Down for Wim Wenders, Carlos Reygada, the Dardenne Brothers

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Originally run in BlackBook’s March 2006 issue, musician/film critic Richard Hell wrote for us about the films he admired least from the month. With the nature of the industry changing so rapidly over the past seven years, it’s interesting to look back on his criticism with the knowledge of today. We see how the directors of whom he speaks have gone far beyond in that time, as well as how the DVD culture he praises has progressed into the world of video-on-demand and Blu-Ray. .

As a rule, I don’t write about movies I don’t like, just because it seems like a waste of space. I didn’t see any I liked for this issue, though, so I’m finally writing some straight pans. There were three movies that turned out to be bad for similar reasons, having to do with how they tarted themselves up in art drag when really all they were was the drag part. One was more or less simply disappointing, one I hated, and one was frustrating in a kind of complicated way. After all that, I’ll lighten up with some good news at the end.

The plain disappointment was the new Wim Wenders film, Don’t Come Knocking, written by and starring Sam Shepard. Wenders has always been an over-romantic Americanaphile, the kind of European who wants to make western road movies with a lot of motels and desert, fronting an electric guitar soundtrack. At the same time, I respect his casual, eye-oriented style. I’ve liked some of his documentaries and remember being susceptible to Wings of Desire too, though I haven’t seen it for a long time. Paris, Texas, his earlier movie written by Shepard, was too ploddingly portentous for me. Shepard, before he was a movie star, was the playwright hero of the 1970s and has continued to be that for two or three generations of rock & roll cowboys of the theater, reeling off drama into the dawn the way most people go to sleep. He’s successfully worked his radiotronic rabbit tooth or his silver dog smell or whatever it is on me more than once over the years. I liked a lot of those plays, and I also respect, as I do in Wenders, Shepard’s anti-Hollywood priorities.
But this movie is so bad and bad in such a way as to make me wonder if I could have been wrong about the earlier Shepard. This shit is too fucking macho, faux-mysterioso, and too much a mental mess, like a blind cut-up of Sam’s and Wim’s own faded old material. It’s strange to see these guys, who so conspicuously reject Hollywood formulas, making works as limited to formula as the stuff they oppose. There are a whole lot of good looking shots in this movie: of western desert, of the big-skied beat-up streets of downtown Butte, Montana, of outrageous disco-squared Nevada casinos, of the star’s vintage Packard wheeling down the two-lane, etc. But that shit is as tired by now as teeth-gnashing mega-pixel dinosaurs. More tired. And who cares about another jacked-in cowboy having an existential crisis all over his family? He should do that on his own time. Eva Marie Saint as Shepard’s mom is really great though. I wish they’d stayed at her house and let her be the movie.
If Don’t Come Knocking is derivative of its own filmmakers, the other two movies here are counterfeits of interesting recent artistic trends. Apparently, there are enough art movies succeeding these days that what at first was fresh gets immediately degraded by imitators. (The one film I’ve walked out on in these two years of movie reviewing was Napoleon Dynamite, a moronic and mean-spirited psuedo-type of Todd Solondz’s great Welcome to the Dollhouse.) The movie I hated is called Battle in Heaven. It’s from Mexico and is the second feature by director Carlos Reygadas. The techniques that Reygadas exploits here are those originally used sensitively and organically by directors like Abbas Kiarostami (Iran), Bruno Dumont (France), and their cinematic godfather the incomparable Robert Bresson: employing non-actors in stories about ordinary, usually poor, people in mostly everyday scenes — though the everyday scenes often include violent death, frequently suicide. Lately, explicit acts of sex have joined the real life detail of some of them, too.
Battle in Heaven opens with a shot travelling slowly, from a mushy face, down the full-frontal body of a very fat and homely naked guy who you eventually see (in unforgiving closeup) is getting his purplish penis sucked by a pretty young woman. The imagery — the camera work, lighting, angles and material subject — definitely get your attention. You want to trust this director because he’s showing you strong stuff. You want to find out where he’s going to go with it, what he’s going to indicate to you about its importance. Unfortunately, he goes nowhere and means nothing. The movie is pure exploitation masquerading as art. It’s degrading to watch. It’s all strategic smoke-blowing, the smoke being filmic techniques that we’ve learned from the director’s betters to read as signifying insight and intelligence, but which here are used in the service of emptiness and vanity, emptiness made to further keep your attention with explicit sex and extreme violence. It’s pure Hollywood pretending to be its opposite. I’ll take Get Rich or Die Tryin’ any day.
The frustrating film is L’Enfant (The Child). Isolated from its models and influences, the movie would seem more than worthwhile: it’s smart, well-acted, shot well, and compelling. (It actually won the Dardenne brothers, who produced, wrote, and directed it, their second Palme d’Or — the first was for Rosetta in 1999 — at Cannes. ) Like Battle in Heaven, it shows underclass folk (and fully credible ones, in contrast to the freaks predicated by Reygadas), carrying out their daily routine. The story is of a dim and luckless 23-year old petty thief and beggar, his 18-year-old girlfriend, and their new baby, on the streets of an industrial city of Belgium. In L’Enfant the roles are played by actors, though they’re good enough and the film is shot in such a way — hand-held camera, natural light — as to make it feel uncannily real. As in Bresson, there is no soundtrack music.
By the time it’s over, you’re moved, though for me it was against my will, because it all wasn’t enough. We’ve seen it before, in Italian neo-realism, in Bresson—the climactic scene, which defines the film, is a shameless appropriation from Bresson’s Pickpocket. I don’t know, this sort of thing isn’t unprecedented. Brian DePalma made a lot of enjoyable movies that were homages derived from Hitchcock. But DePalma’s movies were intended half as goofy filmfreak larks, not intense depictions of our condition, like the Dardennes’ film. There’s certainly a lot to be usefully learned from Bresson — Kiarastami and Dumont prove that — but this film too narrowly imitates him. It’s like if you hadn’t heard Little Richard doing “Long Tall Sally,” you might think the Beatles’ version was great. If you’ve seen Pickpocket, L’Enfant is kid stuff.
For an up note, I’ll point out that DVDs have recently been released of two really good films that you might have missed in theaters in 2005: Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know, and Arnaud Desplechin’s Kings and Queen. Both are strikingly original (!), intelligent, and entertaining, the former a whimsical/spooky tale of the quest for romance of a video/performance artist in nowheresville Southern California; and the latter a novelistically complex look at crises in the life of a thirty-five year old French woman (played by the tremendous Emmanuelle Devos). While being very different from each other, they also have a kind of poetic imagination in common, which, in mixing the real with the hallucinatory, makes everything more real (and funny). There’s not space to say more, but I think you wouldn’t regret renting either.

See James Franco and Wim Wenders on the Set of ‘Every Thing Will Be Fine’

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When it comes to 3D cinema, I can whole-heartedly call my less than a fan. However, with Wim Wenders ode to Pina Bausch Pina, he invited us to enjoy a new experience with the medium. Rather than have the images presented pop out and invade your space, rather, we invade the world on screen. It’s as if you’re transported onto the stage with them and surrounding them, getting a more immersive look into the vision that he’s created—and in a way that truly enhances everything about what you’re seeing.

Using Steadicams rigs, Wenders dissolves the distance between character and spectator, and with his latest feature Every Thing Will Be Fine, he’s once again be utilizing that technique to deliver his poetic brand of cinema. With a script penned by Bjørn Olaf Johannessen, the film will star James Franco as Tomas, a writer whom we follow for twelve years after he accidentally causes the death of a child and is forced to examine his life, as well as that of Kate, the child’s mother.

Speaking to the project Wenders has said, “Every Thing Will Be Fine is a family drama, unravelling over the course of 12 years. A story of guilt and forgiveness, and of accepting things you cannot change anymore. We wrote it with 3D in mind, and I’m convinced that the medium lends itself really well to an intimate story.” And today we can see  the first official photo from the film, with Wenders and Franco on set.

So until further photos or tastes of the film are released, enjoy the shot above, the video below, or get lost in Wenders’ Tokyo-Ga.

Essential Viewing: Watch Lars von Trier, Wim Wenders, & More in ‘FreeDogme’

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Warning: this is the best.

Back in 1984, beloved German filmmaker Wim Wenders brought together a handful of film’s most iconic and brilliant minds—from Jean Luc-Godard to RW Fassbinder (just before his death)—to discuss the future of cinema. Titled Room 666, the 45-minute film makes you ache so badly to have been a fly on the wall in the Cannes hotel room in which they shot. But in a similar vein of cinematic discourse—and one that feels more candid and personal—in 2000 Marie Berthelius and Roger Narbonne made FreeDogme—a film in the form of a video conference call between  Lars von Trier, Win Wenders, Lone Scherfig, and Jean-Marc Barr—noting that Harmony Korine was supposed to show up to the party but was sadly absent.

Intended to explore the ways in which technology and its constant evolution effects the art of film and cinematic practice, we see the filmmakers in their personal spaces, stripped of the usual interview facades engaging in a conversation that’s both fascinating and inspiring, as well just absolutely delightful to watch. Smiling and more buoyant than we’re used to seeing, Lars is clad in a t-shirt and shorts outside in sunny nature, and claims that it was Wenders’ early work that inspired a large part of his desire to create Dogme95—to get back to a kind of poeticism and simplicity. Of course Wenders denies his responsibility in Dogme95, but says that most of the films he made in the beginning were not “necessary” and that attracted him to Dogme95’s aesthetic and sensibility was that Lars and his cohorts were making movies out of necessity again—and “with an existential approach.”

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Wim recollects of his early films, which again Lars found inspirational for Dogme 95, that they had an existential necessity he felt he subsequently lost, but that he was rediscovering via the technological innovations appropriated by, for instance, Dogme 95.  Wim is suggesting that the new technology again makes possible, for him, a kind of necessity to film.

Marie Berthelius asks Lars to sum up the “spirit” of the rules.  Lars replies “the spirit of the rules was only to have rules” because this would enable a withdrawal from conventions where “everything looks like everything.”  Dogme 95, in this sense, renews the artistic idea of making it new.  The rules were also intended to facilitate discussion about making films, for Lars, in the sense that, as in a church, a few central dogmas provide a common vocabulary, premised on shared background assumptions.

Participants discuss whether or not the Dogme 95 rules and technological constraints increase precision in the act of filming, and in what sense.

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So with all the teasing of Lars’ Nymphomaniac tickling away at you and the anticipation for Wenders’ Every Thing Will Be Fine running high, take a look at the wonderful cinematic exploration below.

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Wim Wenders Shares His 50 Rules of Filmmaking

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As my absolute favorite filmmaker, and the man who has taught my heart so many wonderful and necessary lessons with his fascinating, emotional, and poetic work, there are few people whose advice I rather take in than Wim Wenders. As an icon of both German cinema and Hollywood alike, for over four decades now he has been enriching our life with films like Paris, TexasWings of DesirePina, etc. So today, while you’re enjoy your Saturday morning coffee, take some time to peruse his playful list of 50 Golden Rules of Moviemakingit’s well worth it. Enjoy.

1. You have a choice of being “in the business” or of making movies. If you’d rather do business, don’t hesitate. You’ll get richer, but you won’t have as much fun!
5. Don’t look at the monitor. Watch the faces in front of your camera! Stand right next to it! You’ll see infinitely more. You can still check your monitor after the take.
6. Your continuity girl is always right about screen directions, jumping the axis and that sort of stuff. Don’t fight her. Bring her flowers. Always remember: Continuity is overrated!

8. Coverage is overrated, too!
10. Before you say “cut,” wait five more seconds.
12. Don’t shoot a western if you hate horses. (But it’s okay to not be fond of cows.)
13. Think twice before you write a scene with babies or infants.
14. Never expect dogs, cats, birds or any other animals to do what you’d like them to do. Keep your shots loose. Mistakes never get fixed in post! Final cut is overrated. Only fools keep insisting on always having the final word. The wise swallow their pride in order to get to the best possible cut.
17. Other people have great ideas, too.

19. Never fall in love with your temp music.
20. Never fall in love with your leading lady!
22. Don’t quote other movies unless you have to. (But why would you have to?)
23. Let other people cut your trailer!
27. Less make-up is better.
28. Fewer words are always better!

29. Too much sugary stuff on the craft table (or is it Kraft?) can have a disastrous effect on your crew’s morale.
30. Film can reveal the invisible, but you must be willing to let it show. The more you know about moviemaking, the tougher it gets to leave that knowledge behind. As soon as you do things “because you know how to do them,” you’re fucked.
33. A “beautiful image” can very well be the worst thing that can happen to a scene.
37. Be ready to get rid of your favorite shot during editing.
38. Why would you sit in your trailer while your crew is working?

40. You need a good title from the beginning. Don’t shoot the film with a working title you hate!
41. In general, it’s better not to employ couples. (But of course, there are exceptions!)
42. Don’t adapt novels.
47. There are 10,000 other rules like these 50.
49. There are no rules.
50. None of the above is necessarily correct.

See the full list HERE.