Movie Tickets: “The Master,” the AFI Latin-American Film Festival, “Grand Illusion”

Our picks for the best in film over the next seven days.
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. Image courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.
Joaquin Phoenix in The Master. Image courtesy of Annapurna Pictures.


The Master

There’s no surer sign that Oscar season is officially underway than the release of
one of the most anticipated films of the fall:
The Master, director
Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up to the modern masterpiece that was
There Will Be Blood. The filmwas known colloquially in cinephile discussions during its somewhat difficult development
process as Anderson’s Scientology project, but it isn’t technically about Scientology.
It is, however, about a charismatic writer who, in the wake of World War II, develops
his own philosophy/religion and begins collecting recruits to his way of thinking.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the writer, here known as Lancaster Dodd, who is supposedly modeled on Scientology’s
founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
Joaquin Phoenix plays a veteran having difficulties since returning from the war, and in his first
role since his self-imposed Hollywood exile to make the faux-documentary about his
fake career meltdown,
I’m Not There, he comes back as the force of nature everyone remembered him as, garnering near-universal
acclaim and awards buzz for his performance from audiences at the recent Toronto International
Film Festival.

The Master is being described in terms just as grand and operatic as
There Will Be Blood, though is somewhat more confounding plotwise. The reaction among many critics on
Twitter seemed to be one of bewilderment as to how to begin writing about it. This
critic was not able to catch the local press screening, but it’s exactly those types
of reactions that make me more eager to see the film when it opens tomorrow. It will
be playing all over the area, but there’s only one place to go if you want to get
the full experience Anderson intended: the AFI. Anderson, not yet a convert to digital
filmmaking, not only stuck with traditional film for this feature, but went so far
as to shoot on the 70-millimeter format, which gives greater detail and lush visuals
than the usual 35-millimeter. The AFI is the only area theater that’s actually projecting
a 70-millimeter print of the film, which, by all accounts at preview screenings happening
throughout August in select cities, is one of the most amazing visual experiences
you’re likely to have at the movies all year.

View the trailer. Opens tomorrow at a
number of area theaters.


AFI Latin-American Film Festival 2012

Every September, the AFI presents the area’s largest collection of new Latin-American
(and Spanish and Portuguese) films in a festival that covers three weeks, 50 films,
and 20 nations. Highlights include: tonight’s opening night screening of
Filly Brown, a US-produced feature about a Latin-American hip-hop artist trying to break into
the business. There’s the debut from Mexican director
Antonio Méndez Esparza,
Aquí y Allá, about a migrant worker who gives up trying to get by in the US and finds that life
is just as difficult south of the border when he attempts to reintegrate into his
life back at home. Another debut comes from Argentinean director
Benjamín Ávila with
Clandestine Childhood, which was an official selection at Cannes this year—a personal story reflecting
the director’s own childhood during the
junta of the post-Perón years in the 1970s. That’s just a start for this festival, which
grows bigger every year.

Opens tonight at the AFI and
continues through October
10. For a full list of films, schedule, and tickets, check
out the AFI’s
website.


John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963

Each year for the past six years the National Archives has had a tribute to the documentarian

Charles Guggenheim. This year’s program is a week from today, and this year’s tribute ties in with an
upcoming exhibit at the Archives commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile
Crisis, as they screen Guggenheim’s 1979 film about the life of John F. Kennedy, which
was commissioned that year to screen at the dedication of the Kennedy Library and
Museum in Boston. Next week’s screening will be followed by a discussion with Kennedy’s
special assistant for civil rights,
Harris Wofford, as well as
Jay Lash Cassidy, the film’s editor and a frequent Guggenheim collaborator.

View the trailer. Next Thursday, September
27, at 7 PM at the National Archives.
Free.


Miloš Forman: Lives of an Artist

Director Miloš Forman is best known to US audiences for his work on films such as

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and
Amadeus, but before he made the transition to Hollywood he was one of the most prominent
figures in the blossoming of the Czechoslovakian New Wave—a movement that paralleled
the French New Wave, but with its own defining characteristics, particularly the reactions
of its cadre of young directors to growing up under Communism. In celebration of Forman’s
80th birthday this year, the National Gallery is presenting a small retrospective
concentrating on the director’s early work, before winding things up with the crowd
favorite
Amadeus next weekend. Things kick off Saturday with a lecture from
Michal Bregant, the director of the Czech film archive in Prague, who will discuss Forman’s career
and its place in the Czech New Wave; that will be followed on Sunday by screenings
of one of Forman’s earliest films, the 1963 blend of documentary and fiction
Audition
, and his first film after his exile to America,
1971’s
Taking Off.

View clips from Audition. Audition
and Taking Off
screen Sunday at 4:40 PM at the National Gallery of
Art
.
The rest of the Forman programs take place the following
weekend. See the
schedule
for complete details. Free.


Grand Illusion

Jean Renoir’s classic World War I POW movie,
Grand Illusion, celebrates its 75th birthday this year
and has been newly restored for the occasion,
playing at selected screens across the country. One of those
screens happens to be
a brand new one, at the Angelika Mosaic out in
Fairfax,

which officially opens this weekend with a full slate of new
films, as well as something
old to christen the new space. Renoir made his film in 1937, as
fascism was on the
rise in Europe and the first steps on the path to another World
War were underway.
Renoir’s film is one that celebrates lessons that should have
been—but apparently
weren’t—hammered home hard enough in the aftermath of World War
I, namely that the
bonds of humanity should transcend the artificial national
barriers between us. They’re
lessons we’re still working on as a planet, which is one of the
things that makes
the film such a masterpiece and so eternally relevant.

View the
trailer. Opens tomorrow for
one
week only at the new Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax. For more
information about this new
area cinema, check out our preview of the
theater
.

Blu-Ray/DVD Pick:

The Game

The Game often gets a bad rap, sometimes seen as a by-the-numbers exercise director
David Fincher engaged in between two much more universally acclaimed works,
Seven and
Fight Club. But that’s a gross underrating of a sharp and entertaining film, and it’s been nice
to see tides turn on the reputation of the film as time has gone on, culminating in
a new Criterion Collection release with the usual slew of accompanying materials.
The film stars
Michael Douglas as a wealthy investment banker who receives for his birthday a mysterious gift for
the guy who has everything: entrance into an elaborate real-life “game” tailored specifically
to his own life. The character’s initial reluctance to participate turns to horror
as he begins to suspect it isn’t even a game at all, but rather an elaborate plot
to torture, humiliate, and eventually kill him. Endlessly thrilling, with some amazing
action pieces and a fully earned twist in the end,
The Game deserves to sit proudly right alongside the two films Fincher made.

Special Features: Audio commentary by Fincher, cinematographer
Harris Savides, Douglas, screenwriters
John Brancato and
Michael Ferris, digital animation supervisor
Richard “Dr.” Baily, production designer
Jeffrey Beecroft, visual effects supervisor
Kevin Haug, and visual effects producer
Robyn D’Arcy; an hour’s worth of making-of materials, including storyboards for the movie’s big
set pieces; an alternate ending; the original trailer with commentary; and a booklet
featuring an essay by film critic
David Sterritt.

View the trailer.

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