High Museum of Art: Films


In Honor of Snow and Ice by Linda Dubler

As we collectively emerge from the recent  deep freeze, let’s not lose those afghans, Snuggies and warm couch companions just yet. Here are a handful of snow films as chilly as any Hitchcock blonde.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Robert Altman’s revisionist western is notable for all sorts of reasons, from its Leonard Cohen score to its brilliant pairing of Julie Christie as a savvy, opium-smoking madame and Warren Beatty as her smitten business partner, a gambler and a romantic fool.  The film ends in an extraordinary gun battle during a blinding snowstorm, a masterpiece of choreography and cinematography.

Nanook of the North

Enormously popular when it was first released in 1922, Robert Flaherty’s landmark documentary about an Inuit hunter and his family has been restored and released with a new score by Criterion. The film, which was financed by a French fur company and shot near Hudson Bay,  isn’t a pure work by any means–(Nanook’s wives and children were played by people who weren’t his wives and kids; a scene in which Nanook fights to land a harpooned seal was completely staged)–but as Ephraim Katz observed in The Film Encyclopedia, “What made Nanook so remarkable was not its validity as an anthropological study of an exotic ethnic group but its success in capturing the essence of primitive man’s struggle for survival against the hostile forces of nature.”

Noi the Albino

If you felt stir-crazy after being cooped up for a day or two in Atlanta, (where a recent glimpse outside revealed greenery frosted with snow) try trading places with Noi, a poster boy for teenage alienation hailing from the bleak, colorless end of nowhere otherwise known as  Iceland. This very deadpan comedy about a Nordic rebel  is for those who prefer absurdist situations to jokes, and who like their humor espresso dark.

Dr. Zhivago

Who knows how many animals sacrificed their skins so that women around the world could wear fur hats like Lara’s in Dr. Zhivago? Or how many human nerves were frayed by the tinkling of music boxes playing her theme? Dr. Zhivago was roundly booed by critics upon its release in 1965, but the public ate it up.

When it was  restored and revived for its 30th anniversary, Roger Ebert declared that it was “an example of superb old-style craftsmanship at the service of a soppy romantic vision, and although its portentous historical drama evaporates once you return to the fresh air, watching it can be seductive. ” Ebert observed that “the story, especially as it has been simplified by [director David] Lean and his screenwriter, Robert Bolt, seems political in the same sense Gone With the Wind is political, as spectacle and backdrop, without ideology.”

And like Gone With the Wind, it’s the epic sweep, and all that snow, that impresses. Lean built an ice palace out of wax, and resorted to simulating snow with marble dust and plastic during filming in Spain at the height of the summer.

Still yearning for a polar blast? Consider Fargo, March of the Penguins, Encounters at the End of the World, or the Turkish film Climates. And here’s a great YouTube video:

Have any favorite snowy movies? Post them in the comments!

Linda Dubler



Re-Post: Oblivion Review by hmablogmaster
September 16, 2009, 11:23 am
Filed under: Film Series: High, Review | Tags: , , ,

In preparation for the 24th Annual Latin American Film Festival, let’s take a look back at a recent review of Oblivion by Linda Dubler. This film is the second in the festival and will be shown at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 26.

Child acrobat in Oblivion

Child acrobat in Oblivion

Heddy Honigmann’s films are so direct and so deftly understated that their artistry is almost invisible. Devoid of attention grabbing compositions and passionate rhetoric, her sublime, humanistic documentaries are modest but perfectly balanced, quiet but penetrating and immensely moving.

Honigmann is interested in big ideas like memory, justice, and art, but in her films they’re never abstractions. Her movies are stories about the people we pass by every day, people whose lives we never plumb because we don’t have the curiosity, the eye and the quiet fearlessness that allows Honigmann to find the poet and performer in the men, women and children who populate her work.
Oblivion, Honigmann’s latest, is her second film shot in Lima, Peru, where she was born the daughter of Holocaust survivors in 1951. Though she’s now based in the Netherlands and works internationally, Honigmann seems entirely at home on Lima’s teeming streets where acrobats perform at crosswalks and then beg for change amid the idling cars, musicians entertain, and vendors hawk everything from fancy dresses for Barbie dolls to tiny sewing kits. These choked avenues run through the film; lit up and alive, they are a public stage for the poor and the enterprising.

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Food Glorious Food by Linda Dubler
September 8, 2009, 11:51 am
Filed under: General, Top Picks | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”  Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

With Julie and Julia launching three books  to the best seller list and a trio of  Atlanta chefs still in the game on Bravo’s Top Chef,  I’ve been thinking about  food in the movies. There’s a familiar handful of titles that pop up whenever anyone puts together a list on this theme — Babette’s Feast, Eat Drink Man Woman, Tampopo, Mostly Martha, Big Night, and now Ratatouille. To that, add Stephen Chow’s hilarious The God of Cookery, in which he plays a jaded, arrogant chef who has lost his mojo and has to rediscover it ; his triumph involves creating a meatball that squirts.

Then there are the documentaries that make eating a worrisome venture, including Super Size Me and Food, Inc. If actual foodstuffs seem too  scary to contemplate, consider Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a documentary by Les Blank that’s been added as a bonus to Blank’s estimable Burden Of Dreams. It features Herzog, the German filmmaker, fulfilling the  promise  he made to then aspiring filmmaker Errol Morris, that he would literally eat his shoe if Morris ever completed his first project, Gates of Heaven. Shot at the Gates premiere, it shows the ever passionate Werner H. chewing away on  a boot  seasoned with duck fat, garlic, tomatoes and herbs, boileded into  submission, and washed down with  a bottle of Heinenken.  Or revisit Chaplin’s Goldrush for the famous boot-eating scene, (the boot was made of licorice)  which required 3 days and 63 takes to suit the master; supposedly Chaplin was rushed to the hospital in insulin shock following this ordeal.  Here’s that same movie’s bread ballet:

Alfred Hitchcock was notoriously phobic of eggs, declaring “Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting.” One of the most disturbing food images I can think of  is from Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.  It’s a simple black and white shot of a piece of fish sitting on a lonely plate in the protagonist’s refrigerator — but there’s something about the near empty ice-box and the pale fillet sitting on the white plate that is unappetizing in the extreme.

Here’s a cooking demo that my Asian food enthusiast son showed me. I think that Julia would approve.

What’s whetted your appetite or put you off your feed? Write us and share your thoughts.



In The Garden by Linda Dubler
July 28, 2009, 12:45 pm
Filed under: General, High Museum | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Standing before the shimmering expanse of the largest of Monet’s Water Lily paintings now on view at the High, I’m reminded  — of all things — of Cinemascope, that most immersive of big screen movie formats. It’s true that Monet wanted to create an in-the-round experience with his monumental water lily series, but it’s strange to think of gardens and Scope in the same breath — gardening isn’t really a theme that’s inspired great cinema, epic or otherwise, and the gardener’s greatest asset, unflagging devotion, isn’t a quality that we look for in movie stars.

As a not-entirely-successful tomato grower, I can attest to the fact that the  emotional investment made fighting black spot, root end rot, and gigantic green caterpillars approaches the drama of home renovation, but there’s no digging-in-the-dirt version of Mr. Blanding’s Builds His Dream House or The Money Pit.  The movies are full of hunky male gardeners like Rock Hudson in All That Heaven Allows, or Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers, a prequel to The Innocents set at a remote English manor (have to admit I haven’t seen it) as well as dotty ladies whose devotion to raising  prize-winning roses makes them objects of fun; the hip counterpart to these genteel matrons is the heroine of Saving Grace, a sweet British widow who turns to raising marijuana after her husband commits suicide.

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Review: Oblivion by Linda Dubler
July 24, 2009, 2:19 pm
Filed under: Film Series: High, Review | Tags: , ,

This film will show Saturday, September 26 at 8 p.m. as part of  the High Museum of Art’s  Latin American Film Festival.

Child acrobat in Oblivion

Heddy Honigmann’s films are so direct and so deftly understated that their artistry is almost invisible. Devoid of attention grabbing compositions and passionate rhetoric, her sublime, humanistic documentaries are modest but perfectly balanced, quiet but penetrating and immensely moving.

Honigmann is interested in big ideas like memory, justice, and art, but in her films they’re never abstractions. Her movies are stories about the people we pass by every day, people whose lives we never plumb because we don’t have the curiosity, the eye and the quiet fearlessness that allows Honigmann to find the poet and performer in the men, women and children who populate her work.
Oblivion, Honigmann’s latest, is her second film shot in Lima, Peru, where she was born the daughter of Holocaust survivors in 1951. Though she’s now based in the Netherlands and works internationally, Honigmann seems entirely at home on Lima’s teeming streets where acrobats perform at crosswalks and then beg for change amid the idling cars, musicians entertain, and vendors hawk everything from fancy dresses for Barbie dolls to tiny sewing kits. These choked avenues run through the film; lit up and alive, they are a public stage for the poor and the enterprising.

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Looking Forward: Oblivion by Linda Dubler
July 21, 2009, 5:13 pm
Filed under: Film Series: High, Top Picks | Tags: , , ,

In anticipation of the High’s upcoming Latin American Film Festival,  (September 25 – October 31), I’m going to be offering in-depth looks some of the 12 films included in this year’s event.  The second film in this year’s line-up, showing on Saturday, September 26, is one of my favorites.

Oblivion was directed by the Dutch documentarian Heddy Honigmann, who was born in 1951 to Holocaust survivors in Lima, Peru. She is an internationally celebrated filmmaker whose Forever, a portrait of the denizens of Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemetery,  was shown as the High as part of French Film Yesterday and Today. Here is her director’s statement and two clips from Oblivion. My review will follow later this week.

Heddy Honigmann

Heddy Honigmann on Oblivion:

If Lima, the capitol of Peru, were to be covered in dust, the city would be invisible. But it’s not and yet hardly anybody ever notices it or gives its people, cheated and neglected by their rules for centuries, any thought.

It takes an earthquake registering 8 on the Richter scale, or the recent discovery, in the most desolate mountains of Peru, of one of the largest mass graves in the history of the dirty war between the Peruvian army and the guerilla movement Shining Path, for the country to be noticed for a few days or weeks.

In Oblivion, Lima represents all other Latin American cities, whose seas or mountains are graveyards. Horror is omnipresent: in its streets, bars, hospitals and neighbourhoods. But the country isn’t “hot news.”

Reminiscence is a recurring theme in almost all of my films. With Oblivion, I wanted to create a poetic celebration of this forgotten city and its people.

A few years ago it was a waiter, at work in a fancy restaurant, who was the inspiration for the rediscovery of my city. This waiter, whom I recognized after many years away from Peru, told me how he had survived humiliation and hardship by smiling. Others manage to hold up their head by silently making fun of the class that oppresses them, remembering with pride that they have survived both economical crisis and political terror from both sides. And some survive by entertaining car drivers with acrobatics, hoping for a few coins.

All my characters are first-class actors. Hardly any of them have ever been in a museum. Nor have they heard of Marcel Proust or Maria Callas, yet all the people you’ll meet in Oblivion are born poets.

Oblivion doesn’t scream at you, it whispers. Oblivion doesn’t sob, it just cries.

Oblivion takes a flight over the forgotten city; like a bird it lands here, stops there, looks around, talks, listens, flies away again and finally turns into a crystal ball that a young man keeps in perfect balance, thereby defying anonymity.



The Beaches of Agnes by Linda Dubler
Agnes Varda

Agnes Varda

Just when I thought that I had exhausted every beach-related film theme apart from D-Day, along comes the American release of Agnes Varda’s latest autobiographical film, The Beaches of Agnes. Regulars to the High’s annual spring series French Film Yesterday and Today may remember that we showed Varda’s  similarly personal The Gleaners and I a few years back.

If Beaches doesn’t open commercially in Atlanta (it’s playing now in New York) , I’ll certainly include it in our 2010 edition of FFY&T. But spring is a long way off, so I’ll share a few impressions of the film now.

Though women played a major role as muses to the French New Wave of the 1960s (think Jean Moreau, Anna Karina, and Catherine Deneuve), Agnes Varda was the only female  director in that influential movement. She began her career as a still photographer, taking family photos in a Paris department store to support herself. When she felt the need to add words to her images, she turned to filmmaking.

The elfin Varda, now 81, introduces herself as a someone acting the role of a pleasingly plump old lady, a sly way of letting us know that fantasy and embellishment count as much as documentary truth in her playbook. Standing on the shore with the waves pounding behind her, Varda tells us that she believes that people hold landscapes inside themselves. “If we opened me up we’d find beaches,” she says.  Surrounding her are myriad production assistants, setting up mirrors in the sand. These mirrors capture the water (fluid and changing as memory) and announce the introspective, reflective, and fragmented form that her film will take.
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