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"The Death of the Cyberflaneur." He uses the concept of the "flaneur" - the urban stroller associated with 19th century Paris, for whom absent-minded wandering is an aesthetic and maybe even revolutionary act - as a way of getting into a discussion of social media, artistic appreciation, and the walled gardens of today's internet. I'm not sure I agree with all of Morozov's arguments. For example, he begins by likening the hyperlinked web browsing of the '90s to strolling the Parisian arcades celebrated by critic Walter Benjamin. (I am capable of nostalgia for many things, but 56kbps modems and splotchy Geocities designs are not some of them.) But as the essay progresses, he touches on relevant points having to do with social media and the role of solitude in appreciating different kinds of art. Particularly, he cites comments made recently by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as meaning that the kind of aimless, purposeless and, most importantly, anonymous and unobserved wandering that is the practice of the flaneur is no longer possible today.Evgeny Morozov has a fun essay up at the New York Times entitled
From the piece:
What this means in practice was explained by her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, on that same show. "Do you want to go to the movies by yourself or do you want to go to the movies with your friends?" he asked, immediately answering his own question: "You want to go with your friends."
The implications are clear: Facebook wants to build an Internet where watching films, listening to music, reading books and even browsing is done not just openly but socially and collaboratively. Through clever partnerships with companies like Spotify and Netflix, Facebook will create powerful (but latent) incentives that would make users eagerly embrace the tyranny of the "social," to the point where pursuing any of those activities on their own would become impossible.
Now, if Mr. Zuckerberg really believes what he said about cinema, there is a long list of films I'd like to run by his friends. Why not take them to see "Satantango," a seven-hour, black-and-white art-house flick by the Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr? Well, because if you took an open poll of his friends, or any large enough group of people, "Satantango" would almost always lose out to something more mainstream, like "War Horse". It might not be everyone's top choice, but it won't offend, either - that's the tyranny of the social for you.
I don't agree with the binary "social vs. solitude" opposition here -- I'm more inclined towards Sherry Turkle's idea of a third space, which she dubs "alone together." And I would imagine that many, like me, treat Facebook's rolling activity updates as digital noise to roll off our retinas. But I think Morozov is right when he writes, "It's one thing to find an interesting article and choose to share it with friends. It's quite another to inundate your friends with everything that passes through your browser or your app, hoping that they will pick something interesting along the way." When sharing and recommendations become automatic, will they cease to be worth anything? Does discovering things by algorithm and automatic feed rob those discoveries of the charms experienced by the flaneur? Most importantly, does knowing that one will be experiencing a film via the "alone together" paradigm of the browser window influence the film you choose to see?
One person who is thinking about these issues is filmmaker Liza Johnson, whose debut picture, Return, opens Friday. Liza's film was one of the strongest I saw in Cannes, with subtle storytelling, political smarts, and a riveting performance by Linda Cardellini. It is the kind of thoughtful independent film that, in the old days, we knew the critics would support and which would platform slowly across the country, allowing word-of-mouth to build. But the film is opening tomorrow in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Santa Monica prior to appearing, just two-and-a-half weeks later via Focus's new Focus World label, on VOD, iTunes and digital storefronts. Increasingly, this is the new model. (Note that one of Sundance's most hotly-buzzed titles, Bachelorette, just sold to a new Weinstein Company VOD label, Radius.)
It used to be that if you really wanted to see a particular movie, you got your butt to the theater because you didn't want to wait months for it to show up on DVD. Now you have to decide how you want to see a film from the outset. Johnson writes about this on the Filmmaker blog, noting that she'll be doing a live online Q&A via Constellation on the 28th. For her, this move towards bringing "the crowd experience to electronic platforms" is a way to add something more human and personal to an increasingly transactional digital experience. "How will you see Return?" she asks about her film. Whatever your answer is, we hope you do.
See you next week.
IFP LAB PROJECTS SELECTED FOR SXSW Among the fifteen IFP alumni projects that will be screening at the upcoming SXSW Film Festival, five are alums of IFP's Independent Filmmaker Labs: Matt Ruskin's meditative crime drama Booster; Nir Paniry's sci-fi thriller, Extracted; Tim Sutton's ethereal and enigmatic youth drama, Pavilion; Avi Zev Weider's documentary on technology and humans, Welcome to the Machine; and Wu Tsang's Wildness, a look at the convergence of two disparate cultures at the historic Silver Platter Bar in LA - home to Latin/LGBT immigrant communities for generations. All are recent alums of IFP's year-long fellowship supporting independent filmmakers through the completion, marketing, and distribution of their first features. The Labs provide community, mentorship, and film-specific strategies to help filmmakers reach their artistic goals, support the film's launch, and maximize exposure in the global marketplace. IFP program staff is currently looking at candidates for the 2012 labs. Upcoming deadlines for the Labs are March 9 (Documentary) and April 6 (Narrative). Additional detailed information and online applications are available here.
Hammer to Nail Review
The Turin Horse
Abel Ferrara: Ten Lessons on Filmmaking
IFP Lab Projects Selected for SXSW
THE DISH & THE SPOON By Vinay Singh
Alison Bagnall's The Dish & The Spoon opens with a distraught young woman named Rose (played by Greta Gerwig) hastily driving an old, large Mercedes station wagon into the rainy sprawl of an off-season Delaware beach town. When her cell phone rings, she only hesitates for a moment before throwing it out the window onto the highway. This act -- equal parts defiant, hostile, foolish and liberating -- embodies Rose perfectly. Her internal roiling torment is what impels her and the film forward. read more RAMPART Oren Moverman follows up his 2010 directorial debut The Messenger with this explosive portrait of a dirty cop facing corruption charges. Woody Harrelson gives an unforgiving performance as a man wholly deplorable in both his professional and personal lives. Moverman focuses in on the damage that Harrelson's Dave Brown wreaks on the world around him. Read Stewart Nusbaumer's review of Rampart here RETURN Linda Cardinelli gives a stirring performance in this intimate portrait of a war vet returned home. Though at first happy to be back with her husband (Michael Shannon) and children, Kelli has trouble readjusting to the quiet day-to-day existence of her small Midwestern town. Prone to outbursts, refusing to talk about her experiences, and distancing herself from her family, Kelli tracks a path of self-destruction before forming a bond with Bud (John Slattery), an unpretentious Vietnam vet. Directed by first-time filmmaker Liza Johnson, Return is a quiet but powerful look at a damaged woman's struggle to resume a life all but lost to her. This week on Filmmaker, Johnson guest blogs aboutReturn's release strategy. IN DARKNESS This new work from influential Polish New Wave director Agnieszka Holland tells a true story of survival, oppression, and unlikely human connection set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany. After a sewer worker agrees to hide a group of Jews escaping the ghetto in exchange for money, he ultimately forms a tactical and emotional alliance with the group. A tense and harrowing epic, In Darkness spans 14 months in hiding, the results visceral, claustrophobic, and unforgettable. THE TURIN HORSE This ambitious new film from Hungarian mainstay Bela Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies) is already being lauded as one of the auteur's finest works. Told through a series of black-and-white long takes, The Turin Horse presents the day-to-day experiences of a family and their horse, an animal whose public whipping allegedly contributed to philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's mental breakdown. Tarr's camerawork is patient and gorgeous, his stunning visuals evoking a deeply felt meditation on the banality, difficulty, and fleeting beauty of everyday life. This week on the blog, Erin Greenwell describes her post-Sundance blues, filmmakers Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky check in from the Rotterdam premiere of their documentary The Patron Saints (pictured left), and Scott Macaulay remembers artist Mike Kelly.
To read more posts from our blog, click here.
ABEL FERRARA: TEN LESSONS ON FILMMAKING By Ariston Anderson
The original King of Indie Abel Ferrara made a stop at Emir Kusturica's Kustendorf Film and Music Festival this January to screen his latest film 4:44 Last Day on Earth. The Loisaida-set film paints a picture of addiction at the end of the world, starring Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh. Ferrara has always felt a connection to Kusturica, and felt very welcome at Kustendorf, the Serbian director's wooden village high in the mountains of Mokra Gora. "We just kinda have a connection, other than I look like him," Ferrera told me, minutes before entering a workshop to discuss the film with students who had descended upon the festival from all around the world to learn from the week's line-up of cinema greats. read more
Newport Beach Film Festival
WAB Deadline: February 10
Festival Dates: April 26 - May 3
Rooftop Films Summer Series
Late Deadline: February 15
WAB Deadline: March 1
Festival Dates: May 11 - September 20
San Francisco Black Film Festival
Early Deadline: February 15
Late Deadline: May 15
Festival Dates: June 15 - 17