Film | The Knowledge Dynasty


How one woman harnessed people power to save old New York

New film tells story of Jane Jacobss battle’s against the wealthiest developers in the city.

She was a beaky, bespectacled architecture writer, hardly a figure likely to ignite protests that changed the shape of one of the worlds great cities. Yet such is the legend of Jane Jacobs and her bitter struggles to preserve the heart of New York from modernisation that a film charting her astonishing victories over some of the most powerful developers in the US is set to inspire a new generation of urban activists around the world.

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City tells the story of Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, who made herself the bane of New Yorks powerful city planners from the 1950’s to 1970’s. Her nemesis was Robert Moses, the city’s powerful master builder and advocate of urban renewal, or wholesale neighbourhood clearance what author James Baldwin termed negro removal.

Moses dismissed the protesters as a bunch of mothers, and attempted to ignore their efforts to attract wider attention, which included taping white crosses across their glasses in the style of Jacobs.

But through a combination of grassroots activism, fundraising and persistence, Jacobs blocked Moses and successive city overlords from running Fifth Avenue through the historic Washington Square, tearing down much of SoHo and Little Italy to make way for a billion-dollar expressway, and building a six-lane highway up Manhattans west side.

“Some issues you fight with lawsuits and buy time that way,” she later wrote. “With others, you buy time by throwing other kinds of monkey wrenches in. You have to buy time in all these fights. The lawsuit is the more expensive way.”

Little Italy, in New York, saved from demolition for a $1bn expressway. Photograph: Maremagnum/Getty Images

Jacobs warned of the dangers of mixing big business and government, and called them monstrous hybrids. She warned, too, that huge housing projects favoured by developers from the school of Le Corbusier would only bring social dislocation to the poor while making developers wealthy.

Jacobs’s method of prevarication, says Citizen Jane director Matt Tyrnauer, wrote the manual for activism. Speaking truth to power was her great strength, and she was fearless, but she was also a great strategist and analysed how to get to politicians and threaten them in ways that were going to be effective.

Robert Hammond, who produced Citizen Jane and co-founded the High Line, a significant renewal project along Manhattan’s west side that turned an elevated rail track into a garden and walkway, says key to her protest was targeting lower-tier elected officials because they depend on you for their jobs and they know it. She understood that fighting government is a slog, and no matter how powerful you think people are, things can be changed the value of individuals coming together and working as an organism, which today we call crowdsourcing.

Those lessons, in particular Jacobs’s later studies of economics, helped shape The Indivisible Project, an umbrella organisation for thousands of protest groups that have sprung up in the US in the aftermath of the presidential election.

Tyrnauer, who previously directed Valentino: The Last Emperor, considers that Indivisible’s activism, which includes berating local officials and challenging congressional leaders at town hall meetings, is cut from the Jacobs playbook. Late last year the group’s founders, four congressional aides moved to act by the election of Donald Trump, published suggestions that have become central to democratic resistance. Six thousand groups have registered so far, seeking to follow Indivisible’s basic, Jacobs-esque credo: localised defensive advocacy; recognition that elected representatives think primarily about re-election and how to use that; efforts to build constituent power through organically formed, locally led groups; and a focus on congressional representatives via town hall meetings, district office visits and mass phone calls.

Jane Jacobs won many victories over her nemesis Robert Moses, the powerful master builder. Photograph: Library of Congress/Sundance Selects

In her academic and personal life, Jacobs looked at the power individuals have in their own communities, says co-founder and executive director Ezra Levin. Indivisible is fundamentally about constituent power, and we recommend that people assert that power on their own turf, in their own communities. But the connection runs deeper. Jacobs maintained cities are best left to be self-organising. Too much control and they become lifeless. She believed they should be messy something old, something new and warned of the concentration of money and too little diversity. Crucial to Indivisible’s success is an individual group’s basic autonomy. “It’s crucial that this is not a franchise operation. We’ve created a platform but the decisions these groups are taking, or their exact form is fundamentally driven at a local level.”

Jacobs, who died in 2006 and whose centennial falls this year, used to tell an anti-authoritarian story about a preacher who warns children: In hell, there will be wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“What if you don’t have teeth?” one of the children asks.

Then teeth will be provided.

“That’s it the spirit of the designed city: teeth will be provided for you,” she told the New Yorker in 2004.

In Citizen Jane, the documentarians seek to apply the lessons of Manhattan in the 50’s to the urbanisation of China and India. The results are inconclusive.

Many of the challenges cities now face, at least in the west, are reversals of the clearances that affected cities in the last century. “The suburbs are where the poor people are moved to, and they’re becoming more impractical than cities to live in,” says Hammond.

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Richard Adams obituary

Author of the classic 1970’s novel Watership Down, the allegorical tale of a colony of rabbits.

Richard Adams, who has died aged 96, was the author of one of the most successful books of the 1970s. Published in 1972, Watership Down, Adams’ story about a colony of rabbits travelling across the country in search of a better home in the Berkshire Downs when their burrow is destroyed, became a cult novel, with a crossover readership.

Despite being published as an adult book, Watership Down won the two most distinguished childrens book prizes, the Carnegie medal and the Guardian childrens book prize, and sold more than 100,000 copies in Britain in its first year of publication. Unlike some such instant successes, Watership Down was not just a book of its time; it is now firmly established as a classic and has sold more than 50m copies worldwide.

The story of the publication of Watership Down is an example of the quirky nature of publishing. As a manuscript of more than 200,000 words, it was turned down by all of the major publishers and many of the smaller ones, before Rex Collings, a small independent company, picked it up. From the moment of publication, it was widely hailed as an exceptional title and almost instantly became a bestseller. At one point, it held the record for the highest sum paid for paperback rights. Its mass success and cult status was furthered by its subsequent adaptation in 1978 to animated cartoon film, with a soundtrack that included the hit single Bright Eyes.

The origins of Watership Down lay in stories Adams wrote down to entertain his daughters on long car journeys, based on his observation of rabbits from the train window on his daily commute to work. However, Adams himself did not categorise it as a childrens book. Once published, its evocation of the English countryside (the Downs near Adamss home), combined with its detailed descriptions of rabbit society much taken from RM Lockleys The Private Life of the Rabbit (1964) which includes a sharply observed study of leadership through the characters of Fiver, Bigwig and Hazel, made it as much a political allegory as a simple adventure story.

Son of Evelyn Adams, a country doctor, and his wife, Lilian (nee Button), Richard was born in Newbury, and brought up in Berkshire. He was educated at Bradfield college, Berkshire, and Worcester College, Oxford, where he studied history for two years until he was called up in 1940. He served in the Royal Army Service Corps in Palestine, Europe and the far east before returning to Oxford in 1946 to finish his studies. Adams then joined the civil service, where he worked in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and in the Department of the Environment, before becoming a full-time writer in 1974 after the success of his first book.

Subsequent books followed quickly, including Shardik (1974), the story of a hunter and a giant bear, which was particularly poorly received by readers wanting more Watership Down; The Tyger Voyage (1976), a picture book in verse with illustrations by Nicola Bayley; and The Plague Dogs (1977). None had the same success as the tale about rabbits.

Adams was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1975 and held posts as writer in residence at both the University of Florida (1975) and Hollins University in Virginia (1976). He continued to write for both adults and children. He revisited Watership Down in Tales from Watership Down (1996) and contributed a short story to Gentle Footprints: A Collection of Animal Stories, which was published to raise funds for the Born Free Foundation in 2010, just before his 90th birthday.

For almost all his writing, Adams drew on his deep affection for the countryside and the wildlife that lives in it that was formed during his childhood. In his autobiography, The Day Gone By (1990), he describes how, as a child, he lost his heart twice, once to the River Kennet and once to the Downs, of which he writes: I cant remember ever to have done anything anything at all more delightful than walking on the crest of the Downs, looking away to the purple, heat-rimmed edge of the horizon.

Adams was invited to become president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1980, having been a lifelong campaigner for animal welfare and an active member of the society, including taking part in a lecture tour in Canada in 1977 to drum up opposition to the hunting of baby seals. In a subsequent RSPCA members watchdog publication Adams was described as giving a stirring and inspiring speech as president elect, , but his time at the RSPCA was short lived.

Already going through a turbulent time internally, as traditionalists and modernisers fought and tried to put right the 1m deficit that had accrued, the RSPCA council voted to shorten Adamss term of office as president and he resigned in protest. He later commented angrily that senior members of the council were more interested in their own careers than in the welfare of animals.

He continued to be honoured for his work throughout his life, and was the recipient of the inaugural Whitchurch arts award in 2010, given by the Hampshire town in which he lived in later years. Earlier this year, it was announced that the BBC planned a new adaptation of Watership Down for release in 2017.

Adams married Elizabeth Acland in 1949, and they had two daughters, Juliet and Rosamond. They all survive him.

Richard George Adams, writer, born 9 May 1920; died 24 December 2016

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Una review Rooney Mara and Ben Mendelsohn child abuse drama is stagey disappointment

A two-hander about a confrontation between a woman and the man who sexually abused her as a child fails to deliver on its intriguing promise.

The challenge with transforming a stage production into a movie is the need to provide enough of a justification as to why the move was necessary. The differences between the two mediums and the benefits and restrictions they both provide mean that an adaptation, either way, can be fraught with difficulty. Its even tougher when youre dealing with a two-hander, a common theatrical construct that can feel less at home on the big screen.

David Harrowers play Blackbird, most recently performed on stage by Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams, is a tightly focused drama essentially based in just one room. Its big screen incarnation, from first-time director Benedict Andrews, is an attempt to expand upon this claustrophobic set-up and initially at least, it succeeds.

Una (Rooney Mara) is a young woman living in suburban middle England with her mother, haunted by a mysterious past that sees her drinking and having casual sex with strangers. Shes transfixed by a photograph of a figure from her past and it leads her to a factory where she tracks down Ray (Ben Mendelsohn), except that hes now called Peter. Hes alarmed, angry and even frightened by the unannounced visit and we soon learn why: he sexually abused her when she was 13 and shes convinced that theyre in love.

Aware of the inherent staginess of the material, Andrews throws in flashbacks and some nice visual flourishes to give the story a more cinematic feel and the slow-burn drama works nicely for a while. Mara and Mendelsohn have a compellingly toxic chemistry together and their initial confrontation is intriguingly tense. But once were locked into the meat of the story, the film has nowhere else to go, at least anywhere thats of interest and the pace becomes laborious as their discussions turn repetitive.

Mara is as always, a self-assured and fascinating presence, but a distracting, off-key British accent jars and while she gives herself to the film, the film gives her little in return. Theres an interesting and daring conceit here, of a woman who believes that the man who sexually abused her might also be her soulmate. But the subversive victim narrative, explored with far more bite in Paul Verhoevens new thriller Elle, ultimately fizzles out and investment in what happens to the pair becomes increasingly difficult with attempts to de-stage the story bordering on desperate. A convoluted business sub-plot and a sorely underwritten role for the talented Riz Ahmed eventually lead to an underwhelming ending that toys with tired psycho-thriller conventions as Maras character becomes just another crazy woman.

There are two undeniably talented actors here and theyre matched with an initially interesting set-up but its not one that feels suited to the big screen, at least in this iteration. Una is a character and a story that fails to engage and the argument for its existence as a film is a sadly unsuccessful one.

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Whodunnit and whowroteit: the strange case of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor

The real mystery of this 1930s cult thriller is not its murder, but the identity of its writer. So, asks Jonathan Coe, who was Cameron McCabe and what were the facts behind his fiction?

This extraordinary work of postmodern fakery from the golden age of detective fiction was last reprinted 30 years ago, and in the intervening decades has acquired a legendary status. Introducing the book to those who havent read it yet, without revealing too many of its various secrets, is not an easy task.

It would be a terrible breach of protocol, after all, to give away the ending of a mystery story; and yet it would be hard to decide, in any case, what the ending of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor actually is one of the books many peculiar qualities being that the enigmas surrounding it do not come to a halt on the final page.

In this novel, reality and fiction bleed into one another in the most disorientating way. Of course its on one of its levels a murder story, so I will not do anything so crass as to reveal the identity of the murderer; but the identity of the author which lay hidden for more than 30 years after publication is in some ways the central mystery, and the more intriguing one. There seems to have been no particularly feverish rush of speculation when the name Cameron McCabe appeared on the British crime-writing scene, for the first and last time, in 1937, even though several reviewers remarked on the unusual nature of his book.

It was enthusiastically reviewed by Ross McLaren and Herbert Read, who called it a detective story with a difference. Mention was made of the fact that the story did not proceed or indeed resolve according to the normal rules of detective fiction; that the authors name was also the name of the principal character, and that the concluding fifth of the book was in fact an epilogue, purportedly written by a journalist friend of the narrators, commenting on its literary qualities and setting it within the context of recent trends in crime writing.

But just as much attention was focused on the story, which centres on an act of murder at an unnamed London film studio. An actor called Estella Lamare, already effectively killed off by a vindictive producer who has decided to excise her role completely from his latest picture, is found dead in the cutting room: her death has been captured on film by an automatic camera but the reel has gone missing. The subsequent investigation ranges from the streets around Kings Cross to the nightclubs of Soho, from tranquil, verdant Bloomsbury to the docks of the East End.

If Cameron McCabe was praised for the originality of his first entry into the crime genre, and for his novels strong sense of place, reviewers might have been surprised, and even more impressed, had they learned upon whom they were bestowing their acclaim. For the author of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor was only 22 years old when it was published and just four years earlier he had barely been able to speak a word of English.

His name was Ernst Wilhelm Julius Bornemann subsequently anglicized to Ernest Borneman and he had arrived in London as a communist refugee from Nazi Germany in 1933. In Berlin he had already made the acquaintance of Bertolt Brecht and worked for Wilhelm Reichs Socialist Association for Sexual Counselling and Research. Somewhere along the way, either in Germany or London or both, he also worked as a film editor and acquired a reputation as a virtuoso of the cutting room. Borneman was widely read in European literature and, once settled in London, wasted no time bringing himself up to speed with developments in English-language writing, discovering a particular affinity with Hemingway and Joyce, not to mention American crime writers such as Carroll John Daly and Dashiell Hammett. This presumably explains the distinctive, sometimes highly eccentric style of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, which despite being set in an English film studio of the 1930s (which evokes images, perhaps, of genteel musical comedies performed in perfect RP accents), combines laconic, hardboiled dialogue with extended stream-of-consciousness passages, all filtered through the skewed phraseology of someone whose acquisition of English was still, to some extent, a work in progress.

Borneman was a man of formidable intelligence who, like many a postmodern writer before and after him, loved the narrative energies of crime fiction while wanting to remain aloof from its conventions and simplicities. This is the tension that explains, I think, the formal idiosyncrasies of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor.

It begins briskly enough, with a crisp, punchy dialogue between narrator McCabe and producer Bloom, followed by an important chance encounter with a stranger outside Kings Cross station, on one of those last evenings in November with the feel of July or August and the sky orange and heavy. We then get a long and evocative sequence following our hero on a nights adventures through bohemian Soho, and then there is the discovery of the murder itself, the next morning. After that, however, things start to get weird. You keep expecting the story to move forward and it doesnt, really.

Inspector Smith of Scotland Yard turns up to take over the case and we are drawn into a protracted battle of wills (alternately referred to as a fight and a game) between him and McCabe. The minutest details of the case who saw what, who was where and at what time are combed over again and again. Hardly any clues are offered, or deductions made. The story starts to become an exercise in reconciling different perceptions of the same event.

And then there is the epilogue. The idea of bringing in a (fictional) literary critic to offer an assessment of the manuscript doesnt exactly suggest that McCabe is a disciple of Dorothy L Sayers or Raymond Chandler: instead it calls to mind Alasdair Gray and his slippery creation Sidney Workman, who often pops up at the end of Grays novels to provide a commentary and footnotes. And when McCabes critic starts making general observations about the crime genre, such as The possibilities for alternative endings to any detective story are infinite, we are reminded that only two years separate The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor from that true masterpiece of early postmodernism, Flann OBriens At Swim-Two-Birds, whose opening paragraph concludes: One beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimilar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings.

The epilogue recalls Alasdair Gray and his creation Sidney Workman. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

OBriens motives for undermining fictional conventions in this way are lofty and inscrutable. One senses only an amused Sternean scepticism about the whole silly business of writing books in the first place. With Borneman, though, the underlying aesthetic is more (forgive the pun) earnest. Given the fact that he knew Brecht while living in Berlin and came under the influence of his writing, I dont think its too fanciful to see some kind of Brechtian alienation technique being brought into play. Just as a later experimentalist, BS Johnson, would tear through the fabric of his novel Albert Angelo (by declaring Oh fuck all this lying!) in order to make a political point about the dishonesty of fiction, so Borneman here is drawing attention to the inadequacy of detective fiction to express the chaos, loose ends and ambiguities of real life.

This does not quite, however, make The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor the detective story to end all detective stories, as Julian Symons has claimed. For me, that accolade would have to go to Friedrich Drrenmatts The Pledge, published in 1958, at which time it bore the subtitle (later discarded) of Requiem auf den Kriminalroman or Requiem for the Detective Novel. Most of Drrenmatts book works superbly as a self-contained crime novella, and in fact the central story is a very faithful novelisation of his film script Es geschah am hellichten Tag (It Happened in Broad Daylight); but when turning it into a book, he also topped and tailed it with a framing narrative in which a writer of crime novels meets a cynical ex-detective in a bar, and after listening to his (true) version of the story, with its far less neat and satisfying conclusion, is left in no doubt as to the fatal short-comings of his own genre of writing. Drrenmatts forensic demonstration is elegant, devastating and final. By comparison The Face on the Cutting-Room Floors increasingly flummoxing layers of repetition and variation, and the elaborate metatextual apparatus at the end, feel more like a brilliant 19-year-olds roar of frustration at the limitations of the genre which he has chosen for himself.

And so, having apparently exhausted the possibilities of the detective story with his first book, what was Borneman to do next? Initially, at least, the matter was taken out of his own hands. As a German national living in the United Kingdom, not long after the outbreak of war he was apprehended and shipped off to an internment camp in northern Ontario. After a year of this, fortunately, his plight came to the attention of Sir Alexander Paterson, the British commissioner for prisons, who had met Borneman briefly in London, and recognised him when he came to Canada to inspect the camp. Paterson arranged for his release and put him in touch with John Grierson, who had also come to Canada to help set up the National Film Board. Before long, Borneman was working for the NFB in (where else?) the cutting room.

Graham MacInness memoir One Mans Documentary gives a vivid portrait of Borneman at work as a film editor. Watching him make sense of the vast mass of footage assembled for a naval documentary called Action Stations, MacInnes saw that this was someone with an eye as clinical and detached as a lizards, who approached his work with a fine mixture of Teutonic exactitude and a Jewish sense of extrovert lyricism.

To see his wavy blond head bent rigidly over a hand viewer; his strong but elegant hands ripping outs of film backward like gravel flung behind a bone-digging dog; his swift, frenzied but orderly snatching of takes from bins; his skilled manipulation, without getting them twisted or torn, of half a dozen shots; his mouth full of clips, his shirt-sleeved figure draped with film like a raised bronze statue with Aegean seaweed: this was to see a Laocoon writhing in the agony of creation. Borneman was a fanatic, a grammarian, a Central European engulfer and regurgitator of fact. But never a bore.

Borneman was sent to an internment camp during the second world war. Photograph: Nick Yapp/Getty Images

We are dealing with a remarkable man, then, obviously: and yet Ive barely begun to scratch the surface of his remarkableness. He was also, already, a leading authority on jazz (there is a lot of it in The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor) and his next publication was A Critic Looks at Jazz, a collection of journalism on the subject from his London days. He returned to Britain in 5the 1950s and worked as a jobbing screenwriter for TV shows such as The Adventures of Robin Hood. By now he had published two novels under his own name, Tremolo and Face the Music, a murder mystery set in the jazz world which was filmed in the UK in 1954. Another Borneman-scripted film from that year, Bang! Youre Dead, is a fascinating British thriller set in the world of villagers displaced and made homeless by German bombing, who still live in Nissen huts on an abandoned US army camp. In 1959 Borneman published Tomorrow Is Now, a cold war story described by the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum as evoking at times both Ibsen and Shaw, and which Borneman himself considered his best novel.

In the 1960s he returned to Germany, in an abortive attempt to set up a new state-funded TV channel and published his last two novels in English, The Compromisers and The Man Who Loved Women.

Finally Borneman settled in Upper Austria, where he lived in rural isolation in the village of Scharten. Isolation but not, by any means, obscurity: for now the final phase of his multifaceted career was under way, and he had made a considerable reputation for himself as an academic working in the field of human and particularly infant sexuality. By the time The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor was rediscovered and reissued in the early 70s, attracting extravagant praise from such writers as Symons and Frederic Raphael, Borneman was already the celebrated, sometimes notorious author of Lexikon der Liebe und Erotik and the monumental Das Patriarchat, which became a key text of the German womens movement. He continued to write, lecture and publish well into his 70s.

By the end of his life, Borneman had travelled an immense distance from his early, brilliant foray into detective fiction. Or had he? If we are to make sense of The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, in the end, perhaps we should see it, not as a postmodern intellectual prank, or a dazzling box of tricks, but as a work of wild and desperate youthful romanticism. By the time his part of the narration draws to a close, McCabe Bornemans alter ego has reached a suicidal frame of mind. Hopelessly in love with a woman who thinks nothing of him, he reflects that there is No way out for a man once a woman has got hold of him It will get you in the end.

In 1995, to mark his 80th birthday, Ein Luderlichtes Leben (A Wayward Life), a festschrift devoted to Bornemans life and work appeared, with a cover that showed him standing, fully clothed, next to a naked female model. The book had been compiled by a colleague of Bornemans, who was also his lover at the time. Before long, however, their affair was over, and in June of that year Borneman killed himself. It had got him in the end. It seems that the 22-year-old Cameron McCabe and the 80-year-old Ernst Wilhelm Julius Bornemann were not so different after all.

The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor by Cameron McCabe (Ernest Borneman) is published this month as a Picador Classic. To order a copy for 7.37 (RRP 8.99) go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99.

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Todd Solondz: There may be a line I shouldnt cross I dont know where it is

The writer-director has mined the darkest of subjects from stalking to rape to paedophilia. In Wiener-Dog he turns his attention to dachshunds and death

In an unlikely turret right at the top of a cinema in Piccadilly, the film director Todd Solondz and I, practically knee to knee, are discussing dog ownership. Does he have one? No. He wrinkles his nose, on which are perched his trademark jam jar-thick spectacles. I mean, I might if someone else would walk it for me. But if I have to walk it and pick up after it Imagine its really cold out, and its New Years morning, and your dog needs to go. His voice, already quite high, rises a notch. I just dont want that!

Solondzs new film, Wiener-Dog, comprises four short stories about love and death, all of which are linked together, like beads on a string, by a dachshund; halfway through, this animal also stars in a jokey intermission in which it jauntily (or annoyingly, depending on how you feel about tiny dogs) travels the world.

So where did the dog in the film come from? I dont know, Solondz says, dreamily. Its a cute little dog, the dachshund, and that cuteness was attractive for my purposes. The movie is not really about the dog, its trials and triumphs: that would be Lassie. This dog is more a filter through which I explore things like mortality.

What about the suggestion that dog owners are not, as some of them may like to believe, any more caring than the rest of us? Given the sheer meanness of some of the films characters, this seems to me to be one of its major themes. He nods. Look, when a dog is violated, its the greatest transgression possible for many people. You could bludgeon babies and not get so shocked a response. People project a kind of innocence on to these cute little creatures, as if they dont have their own desires and wills, as if theyre happy to be spayed, or otherwise reduced.

Watch the trailer for Wiener-Dog

Aware, perhaps, that dachshund lovers the world over are about to make him their hate-figure, he titters. This species, I learned, is bred to look cute at the expense of other aspects of its wellbeing. Thats one of the reasons why it is so deficient in intelligence. We had a number of them playing the part, and the one thing they all had in common was their stupidity. They were so stupid! When we said stay, they did not stay, and when we said sit, they did not sit. It was horrible! The patience you needed. You had a whole crew waiting and waiting just for the dog to lift its head: Look up, look up, look up, look up! But maybe the dogs were just sadistic. The one in the first story wasnt the sweetest, you know. It even bit the little boy.

Solondz, the acclaimed director of Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, makes unusual, divisive and often highly prescient movies. Rape, stalking, incest, paedophilia: no subject is for him untouchable, or, apparently, for the big name actors who seemingly line up to star in them. Wiener-Dog, in which, among other things, a sadistic mother tells her small son a vicious story about a rape, is no exception. Among its cast are Julie Delpy (the spiteful mother), Ellen Burstyn (a sour old woman), Greta Gerwig (playing, it seems, an adult version of Dawn Wiener from Welcome to the Dollhouse), and Danny de Vito, as a disillusioned professor of screenwriting at a New York university. How hard is it to bag such stars? He shrugs. If they say yes, its easy. If they say no, its not.

As for De Vitos role as Dave Schmerz, whose cynicism and exasperation lead him to put poor little Wiener-Dog to dastardly use, this seems how to put this? quite daring, given that since 2009, Solondz has taught film at New York University. What, I wonder, is his department head going to make of his using Schmerz as his proxy to rubbish film studies? Solondz, though, clearly couldnt care less. NYU. It is an evil empire. Im in awe of how incompetent and corrupt the administration is. But that said, I love teaching there. I love the students. Its the opposite of making a movie. I cant take any of the credit, or any of the blame, for the students work.

Greta Gerwig in Wiener-Dog. Photograph: Annapurna Pictures

Long ago, after he completed his English literature degree at Yale, Solondz enrolled at NYUs graduate film school himself. He dropped out after two years. I didnt like production, he says. Working crews: it was too horrible. If youre not a director, working on a movie is incredibly boring. And if you are a director? Its incredibly boring, and stressful. Its a nightmare.

So why do it? Its the price I pay to get the movies made. I direct not so much because I want to direct but because I dont want someone else to screw up my material. There is something gratifying in writing the script, in finding a story thats important enough that you want to put yourself through that ordeal. And I love the casting process, the editing, the music. Its just production I hate. All I ever think while Im doing it is: why did I ever leave my apartment? He emits a strangled cry. I was so happy at home!

Solondz, who is 56, grew up in New Jersey. His father had his own building business, his mother stayed at home. It was a 40-minute drive to the city, but it was another world entirely. It may as well have been Oz. My dream was to one day live in New York, so Im living that now [he shares his Manhattan apartment with his wife, and two young children]. What can I tell you? It was a very classical, middle-class, suburban sort of life. I wasnt a cinephile then. I wasnt allowed to see anything that wasnt a childrens movie, and in the suburbs you cant get around without a car, so that was it. I remember one day, my mom went to see One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest with one of my older siblings. I said I really wanted to see it too, and she said: no, youre too young. I was 16! So, I saw Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Sound of Music, but no Truffaut, no Godard, no serious cinema at all.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lara Flynn Boyle in Happiness. Photograph: Allstar/Trimark/Sportsphoto

It was big deal to land a place at Yale, though he says now that if hed had the courage, he would have dropped out there, too: I wasnt even a big reader! Nevertheless, it was the university, with its many film societies, that gave him his cinema education: I was socially very shy, so those societies were a kind of sanctuary for me.

After college, he wrote a couple of scripts they were very juvenile and went to LA, where he got himself an agent. But of course, nothing happened, and I didnt want to live in LA, so I applied to NYU, and that was the first time I had enjoyed school since I was a child. I mean, I think the school was kind of a rip-off, and a joke. I couldnt take any of it seriously. But in another sense, so many things clicked there. I did become something of an it person at NYU.

The shorts he made as a student caused a stir, and after they were screened in LA it was only 24 hours before he was standing in the office of the president of 20th Century Fox. Both it and Columbia wanted to sign him up for a three-picture deal. It was kind of heady. But it was also the lowest point in my life. The only thing I liked about these deals was telling people I had these deals. I was questioning everything and it was hard though which of my classmates was going to give me any sympathy for that? The upshot was that I ended up making an ill-begotten and ill-conceived movie [Fear, Anxiety & Depression, in which a young Stanley Tucci appeared], and then I just walked away. It was a real humiliation. I thought that was it. I was 29, or thereabouts.

For the next few years, he taught English as a second language to Russian immigrants in New York, and was truly happy. I was freed from everything. I had no ambition. When the students asked me what I really did, I said: Computers. But then I began to wonder: will I be happy doing this when Im 40 or 50? And I didnt want that first movie to have the last word. So I made Welcome to the Dollhouse.

That film, which was released in 1995, was about a bespectacled, friendless girl who is bullied at school. It went on to win the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance film festival. I had no expectations of it, says Solondz. When I got a fax from the Toronto film festival telling me it had been accepted, I thought it was a prank. I mean, this wasnt paranoia. Id showed it to some sales people, and they didnt even finish watching it. Anyway, that changed everything. Ive had creative control ever since.

He followed it three years later with Happiness, in which one of the male characters drugs and rapes his sons school friend. What made it controversial was that I was putting a human face on a monster. After Dollhouse, you see, every door was open, and so I wanted to take advantage of that and do something I could never do otherwise. Did he have to screw up his courage, though? I still remember the intense silence in the cinema when I saw it. Yes, I guess so. But its like that every time. Youre always hoping you wont embarrass yourself.

Is financing his films getting harder? His namesake and near contemporary, Todd Haynes, complained to me last year that it was scarcely any easier for him than when he started. Well, its always been hard, and I accept that. Im not angry about it, though I feel like Ive only been able to survive this long by the skin of my teeth. Its luck, and its tenacity. If your movie is profitable, that makes it less difficult to do the next one, but we all know everything can change on a dime. Im always vulnerable. I certainly make movies less frequently than I would if money were not an issue.

His backers dont, he insists, put him under pressure to make his films more upbeat though for all its suburban bleakness, the picaresque Wiener-Dog seems to me to be far sunnier than some of his pictures. Whatever the American critics say the word caustic has been used jokes lurk in every scene. There may be a line I should not cross, but if there is, I dont know where it is, he says. This is instinctive for me. Sweet and acid: I want both. Smiling, he presses his palms to his thighs. If Im going to use a big truck to crush a tiny little dog Well, Im really going to do it. Because life is crushing.

Wiener-Dog is out on 12 August

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Ignored by youth-obsessed Hollywood, older audiences flock to indie films

In a summer stuffed with blockbusters aimed at young audience, arthouse films appeal to an older demographic because the stars reflect the audiences

Halfway into Warcraft: the Beginning, the video game adapted by Duncan Jones into a wannabe sci-fi franchise, Glenn Close appears as some kind of oracle. Swathed in a black cloak and with CGI-enhanced black orbs for eyes, she spouts some foreboding nonsense and then shes off.

The blink-and-you-miss-it role is quite a comedown for a six-time Oscar nominee, but at least Close got a part at all. This year, Hollywood seems to have largely shunned more seasoned actors, along with older moviegoers.

Out of the many releases by major studios to have opened this year, only one was headlined by an actor over the age of 60: Dirty Grandpa, which stars Robert De Niro and of which the Guardians Peter Bradshaw said: This gross-out comedy takes De Niro fans into a new emotional phase that I can only call post-despair. However, the film wasnt aimed at De Niros fellow baby boomers, but at the youthful fans of his ripped co-star, former High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron.

Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins. Photograph: Nick Wall/PR

Another exception is Meryl Streep, who stars in Florence Foster Jenkins, a period drama from director Stephen Frears about the worlds worst opera singer. The film was well received by critics when it was released in Europe in the spring; viewers in the US will have to wait until August.

Faced with such few worthwhile options in the multiplex, older moviegoers have opted to flock to the arthouse theaters instead, making their presence known in a big way. Of the top 10 most profitable independent films to play in cinemas in 2016 so far, seven are aimed strictly at adults, many of them centered on characters age 60 and over.

The drone warfare thriller Eye in the Sky, which stars Helen Mirren, rules the roost with a domestic gross of $18.5m. Its followed closely by Hello, My Name is Doris, a surprise smash for Sally Field, who hasnt had a big screen lead role in decades. The comedy has so far amassed $14.3m, making it the highest-grossing film to have ever premiered at the SXSW film festival. Even better: it was only made for $1m.

At 81, Maggie Smith is meanwhile the oldest Dame in the top 10, thanks to the success of The Lady in the Van, currently the fourth-biggest indie hit of the year. Susan Sarandon also features, with her widow drama The Meddler doing robust business, putting the film in ninth place on the list.

Maggie Smiths The Lady in the Van is a hit for Sony Pictures Classics. Photograph: Nicola Dove/NDOVE

This phenomenon is not new: older audiences, starved for Hollywood content that speaks to them, have been making the arthouse their entertainment go-to destination for years. Theyre the reason Mirren topped the 2015 specialty box office with Woman in Gold, a Holocaust drama. The year before, they made St Vincent a hit for Bill Murray.

Tellingly, both films were tepidly received by critics, leading to the conclusion that their target demographic are likely to flock in droves simply because they exist. They dont even have to be that good.

The older audience is an audience that really likes to go to movies and continues to go to movies on a regular basis, explains Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, the independent distribution company behind The Lady in the Van and The Meddler, as well as last years Grandma, which stars Lily Tomlin. Older audiences tend to have more time on their hands to be a habitual moviegoer.

In all the change weve had in the movie business, the fact that the older audience still likes to go to the movies, is solid ground, adds Eric dArbeloff, co-president of Roadside Attractions, responsible for distributing Hello, My Name is Doris. Theres definitely an audience for [older-skewing] movies.

Despite these assertions, dArbeloff says the independent arena often faces the same kind of prejudice that keeps Hollywood from catering to older viewers.

When we bought Hello, My Name is Doris, there were people saying its cute but it doesnt have commercial legs, says dArbeloff. That kind of cynicism you face all the time. Theres a lot of resistance to kind of embrace the success of these movies.

And yet its impossible to ignore their popularity. The grosses, when compared to those of studio releases, are of course paltry. Indies, however, rarely come close to playing in as many nationwide cinemas as Hollywood fare. Plus the marketing spends are far lower. In short: they hardly stand the chance of matching their studio cousins. The fact that many have even come close, and that they star actors like Field, Smith and Sarandon, is a big deal.

Susan Sarandon in The Meddler. Photograph: PR

Surely a film tailored for an older market is bound to perform even stronger than its arthouse counterparts, when backed by Hollywoods bells and whistles. So why arent major studios following suit?

Because if they dont get it right, then the audience can be very small, argues Anne Thompson, Indiewires editor-at-large, whos been covering the business side of the industry for more than 20 years in Los Angeles. Those types of movies are execution dependent, and [studios] hate that. Theyd rather have a franchise, a film that is for men and women, young and old. Theyre going to get a bigger audience in theory and thats what they aim for, especially in the summertime.

Adds dArbeloff: All of these projects get green-lit based purely on economics, and so often they have to do with whats selling at Walmart, how are they doing in China, etc. What fits into these models is really tricky. Im not saying theres no room for change, but its probably not an accident that you see the choices being made that you do.

DArbeloff is predictably unconcerned by Hollywoods tendency to aim wide rather than old, considering the market the independent arena has cornered.

I think its exciting that theres now a niche here for us, he says. I like that we found our space.

Hollywood doesnt appear too eager to invade that territory any time soon. Apart from Bad Santa 2, which sees Billy Bob Thornton returning as a crusty Santa Claus impersonator, and Inferno, the third film in The Da Vinci Code franchise headlined by Tom Hanks, studios are largely betting on younger actors and more youth-centric storylines to bring in the masses through to the end of the year.

One glimmer of hope: it was recently announced that Mirren will be featured in the eighth Fast and the Furious film next summer. Will an older audience, likely unfamiliar with the franchise, even turn out? Thats a whole other story.

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Swiss Army Man’s farting folly could be the cure for Hollywood’s ‘sequelitis’

Yes, the main premise is a farting corpse. Yes, thats completely ridiculous. But the comedy puts the mainstream industrys lack of invention to shame

Music video directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert probably didnt panic when a continuous stream of audience members bolted for the exit at the Sundance premiere of Swiss Army Man. From a pre-credits opening sequence that sees Paul Dano hop aboard Daniel Radcliffe (who just happens to be a dead farting corpse/human jet-ski) to traverse the ocean, Swiss Army Man not only welcomes derision it gleefully thrives on it.

As the Guardians Jordan Hoffman noted in his review out of the festival, Swiss Army Man only grows progressively weirder as it glides along.

After Danos lovelorn Hank happens upon Radcliffes corpse on an island following a failed suicide attempt and rides his new discovery to nearby land, Hank is soon overjoyed to learn that his companion (he names him Manny) is semi-alive like a zombie, just much friendlier and more useful. Even better: Manny can act as a human swiss army knife of sorts (get it?).

In a whimsical montage, scored to oddly sung original music by Manchester Orchestra members Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, Manny shows off his bag of tricks to an ecstatic Hank: he can store seemingly infinite amounts of water in his body, shoot projectile weapons out of his mouth to kill prey, and use his erect penis as a compass to direct them to civilization.

Its at this point that viewers will probably divide into two camps. Either you buckle up for the zany ride, or you check out, numbed by the gas and dick jokes. Watching Radcliffes bowels go completely berserk is, of course, not to everyones liking. But under all the bellowing is a visual and aural wonder thats impossible to dismiss as purely puerile.

Kwan and Scheinert, best known for helming the surreal music video to DJ Snake and Lil Jons 2014 dance hit Turn Down for What, are magicians at conjuring arresting images that both repulse and awe. A shot of Manny fart-propelling Hank high above the trees is downright dreamlike in execution.

Over their dead body: Daniel Radcliffe, Manny, and Paul Dano at Swiss Army Mans New York premiere. Photograph: Starpix/Rex/Shutterstock

The performances match their efforts. Dano, his childlike face masked by a gnarly beard for most of the film, commits to Hanks desperate situation with the type of no-holds-barred abandon the actor is known for. Radcliffe proves to be Danos ideal foil, remaining strictly reactive, while investing Manny with an endearing sense of curiosity.

When their relationship takes on a romantic nature, the two dont make light of the plot development they commit to it wholeheartedly. The effect is ultimately beguiling, and feels altogether foreign in todays comedy landscape, when gay undertones are usually played for laughs.

Dano and Radcliffes chemistry, coupled with Kwan and Scheinerts gonzo vision and an unpredictable story thats commendably vague, makes Swiss Army Man one of the more brazen and original comedies to come along in years. (Seth Rogens Sausage Party is soon set to join those ranks, but that doesnt open until next month.)

During a summer when sequelitis seems to have taken hold of audiences, the need for Swiss Army Man in the marketplace is paramount. Its existence proves that singularly strange films can still get made. Hopefully it finds an audience.

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The next Paul Verhoeven? I’d buy that for a dollar

The Dutch directors new thriller Elle is at Cannes, but whatever happened to the master of 80s/90s sci-fi bombast who gave us Robocop, and Total Recall?

At 77, Paul Verhoeven does not seem to be planning retirement anytime soon. Screen Daily reported this week that the maverick Dutch film-maker has at least three upcoming projects planned, including a film about the second world war French resistance titled Lyon 1943, and a movie about Jesus.

But as the veteran director prepares to debut his new film Elle at the Cannes film festival next week, it is painfully apparent to those of us who still remember his early US movies that the Verhoeven we knew and loved has already said his fond farewells. The master of mainstream burlesque who gave us Robocop, Starship Troopers and Total Recall returned home to his native Netherlands in the mid-00s, and somehow Hollywood has never quite managed to replace him.

The Dutchman delighted in taking serious science fiction literature and transforming it into radiant comic book satire, long before superhero movies were all the rage. His best movies have all the immediacy, all the colour, verve and larger-than-life characterisation of the sharpest graphic novels.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has never made a better film than Total Recall (with the possible exception of Conan the Barbarian and the early Terminator movies), because Verhoeven knew exactly how to pitch his preposterous physical specimen. The former bodybuilder gurns and flexes his ways through the film with such thunderous commitment that the end credits are rolling before weve even had the chance to remind ourselves that he really cant act. Its a gorgeously silly B-movie romp that takes Philip K Dicks thoughtful novel about the reliability of reality and supercharges it with Martian femmes fatale, interplanetary conspiracy theories and triple-breasted ladies of the night.

Robocop, with its prescient satire on corporate greed on the mean streets of future Detroit, might just be even better. Peter Weller has never been an actor with any kind of great range, but hes perfect as the granite-jawed cyborg hero. Starship Troopers, with its ruthless satire on the fascistic leanings of rightwing author Robert A Heinlein (who wrote the original novel Verhoeven only bothered to read two chapters) stands just as tall in the pantheon of exploitation-flecked sci-fi.

Imagine if Verhoeven had hung around for the dawn of the comic book movie era. He might have shot a gloriously rambunctious Avengers movie, would have been a brilliant choice to revive Judge Dredd on the big screen, and might just have saved Batman v Superman from Zack Snyder purgatory. He could build fantasy worlds that felt grander, sharper and more ostentatious than any of those presented by his peers, and his use of special effects always hit the mark. The Oscar-nominated CGI in Starship Troopers, just a few years into the digital revolution, is more impressive than those seen in many films today.

So where are Verhoevens successors? Of the younger science fiction film-makers currently doing well in Hollywood, Joss Whedon is a superior writer of dialogue, while JJ Abrams is a more impressive student of cinema. Duncan Jones is surely the undisputed maestro of the claustrophobic two-hander, while Neill Blomkamp is capable, when on form, of expanding the genre into new vistas of darkling eccentricity. But none have the Dutchmans lurid intensity and knack for frenzied, high energy set-pieces.

Perhaps Verhoevens weaker later films permanently dented his reputation with younger directors. This is, after all, the director that gave us the surprisingly insipid 2000 horror remake Hollow Man, a riff on 1933 James Whale cult classic The Invisible Man starring Kevin Bacon and Elisabeth Shue. Basic Instinct, his oh-so-shocking 1992 sex thriller, is these days remembered for little more than that scene involving Sharon Stone and her misplaced underwear.

And then theres the soft porn monster that is Showgirls. The sight of Kyle MacLachlan and Elizabeth Berkley writhing operatically in a Vegas pool may still bring tears to the eyes 20 years on, but most would agree its a more fun viewing experience than the soggy R-rated Mills and Boon drivel of Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Dutchmans Cannes entry, Elle, was described as pure Verhoeven, extremely erotic and perverted when it was sold at the 2014 Cannes film market. So its possible acolytes of this corner of the film-makers oeuvre may yet find satisfaction in his future endeavours.

But for those of us longing for eye-popping visions of alien landscapes, bug-hating soldiers of fortune and sleazy corporate sociopaths, well always have Verhoevens classic 80s/90s sci-fi triple whammy. As Jonny Rico once said: Come on you apes! You wanna live forever?

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In Honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), the Documentary Film, “Making Light in Terezin” will air on over 180 PBS stations in April

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) February 17, 2015

Power Story Ent., Inc. has recently released “Making Light in Terezin” which tells the true story shows how Jewish prisoners in the Terezin Ghetto in the Czech Republic managed to survive during WWII with the help of song, dance, theater and comedy. This poignant and moving documentary follows a modern day theater troupe as they journey to the Czech Republic to do a comedic cabaret piece for the first time in 70 years in the very same attic venue it was first performed in during WWII.

“Making Light in Terezin,” titled for the double entendre of making light through laughter and arts in the darkness of prison and making light through humor, is an 87-minute documentary. It includes interviews with several Holocaust survivors who reflect upon their imprisonment in Terezin Ghetto outside of Prague.

According to Krevolin, one of the most inspiring moments in “Making Light in Terezin” occurred during his interview with Holocaust survivor Pavel Stránský, age 93. Stránský was kept in Terezin from December 1941 through 1943 and was also imprisoned at Auschwitz, where he watched Josef Mengele (an officer and physician infamous for selecting who would be killed) seat young children on his knee and tell them “call me Uncle” right before sending them to their deaths. Despite witnessing such evil firsthand, Stránský never became bitter; instead, he speaks in the film of forgiveness and love and how the arts helped he and other prisoners to survive (for a sneak peak of Stránský’s interview, visit

“Making Light in Terezin” celebrates the creative artistic spirit that was alive in the prisoners of Terezin in 1943 despite the atrocities of war. Because of the length limitations that come with film, which meant only snippets of each interview could be included, the companion book offers supplemental details and historical facts. It presents the full survivor interviews and discussions with Holocaust scholars, “second generation” family members and even a Ph.D. candidate speaking about the effects of imprisonment and creativity on brain chemistry.

The trailer for the film can be seen at:

The book and film can both be purchased on, etc.

About Richard Krevolin

In addition to writing, directing and producing “Making Light in Terezin,” Krevolin is the author of several best-selling novels and non-fiction books on writing. He lectures around the world on film, storytelling for businesses and writing. For more information, visit, and

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Richard Krevolin,


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Pixel Film Studios Releases a New LUT Loader Plugin for Final Cut Pro X

Aliso Viejo, California (PRWEB) March 18, 2015

Theme and plugin developers from Pixel Film Studios have announced a new tool for Final Cut Pro X editors entitled FCPX LUT Loader.

“FCPX LUT Loader gives users total control to load LUT files directly into Final Cut Pro X,” said Christiana Austin, CEO of Pixel Film Studios. “We’ve given our users the tools needed to add LUT overlays to their FCPX project.”

With this free LUT Loader plugin from Pixel Film Studios, editors can quickly and easily load any LUT file directly to Final Cut Pro X. This LUT tool allows users to color correct or add a color grade without having to use another software. The LUT changes every pixel’s color to the corresponding color indicated by the table.

A LUT is a Lookup Table that contains a mathematical formula for modifying an image. The LUT changes every pixel’s color to the corresponding color indicated by the table. LUT’s are extremely versatile files. They can be used in many different softwares and be created to color correct specific digital cameras.

The FCPX LUT Loader from Pixel Film Studios allows editors to quickly and easily load a LUT file directly into Final Cut Pro X to color correct or grade their footage without having to use another software. Users can simply drop the loader on top of their footage and then, use the drop down menu to select or import a LUT Cube file.

LUT’s are commonly used for Color Calibration. Users can use a LUT to quickly get their footage from a flat, Cinestyle or Log image to the monitor normal Rec709 grading. In addition to color correcting your image to Rec709, LUT’s can be used for creative color grading. With an already properly color corrected image, users can apply a LUT to create a film look. If the LUT doesn’t fully achieve the desired look, editors can use the built-in customization controls to adjust the strength, contrast, brightness and saturation of their image.

Established in 2006, Aliso Viejo, California-based Pixel Film Studios is an innovative developer of visual effects tools for the post-production and broadcast community. Their products are integrated with popular non-linear editing and compositing products from Apple FCPX. All Apple, the Apple logo, Mac OS X, and Macintosh are registered trademarks of Apple Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. All other trademarks and trade names are the property of their respective owners.

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