This year Germany submitted BELOVED SISTERS as their potential nominee for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, and one can see why. Scott Foundas of Variety, a smart, tough critic, called the movie “an enthralling, gorgeously mounted depiction of the complicated relationship between the post-Enlightenment writer and philosopher Friedrich Schiller and the sisters Charlotte von Lengefeld and Caroline von Beulwitz. Graf has created an unusually intelligent costume drama of bold personalities torn between the stirrings of the heart and the logic of the mind.” We are very pleased to open the film tomorrow at the Royal, Playhouse and Town Center.
It’s time for our 3rd Annual Ride with Greg Laemmle Climate Ride Contest! Don’t miss your chance to participate in this life-altering event. Last year our team was 14 strong and we’re expecting to surpass that number for 2015. Join us and become part of our amazing group!
What’s more, tell us why you want to ride with Greg and you could win an Unlimited Laemmle Movie Pass for the remainder of 2015, free registration for Climate Ride California, and a $2500 contribution toward your Climate Ride fundraising goal from the Laemmle Charitable Foundation. See the second and third prize packages, eligibility requirements, and all contest details over on the contest entry page.
An outside panel of judges will select the winners based on the quality of their entry statement so take the time to craft something that’ll really knock their cycling socks off! But don’t wait too long, the deadline for entry is Monday, February 16!
Climate Ride California 2015 is a fully-supported, five-day group ride covering approx. 300 miles of stellar Northern California scenery starting with the awe-inspiring Redwood State Park, down miles of spectacular coastline, through California wine growing country, and culminating with a jaunt over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the City By the Bay. Bike fitness is recommended, but the ride caters to all levels of ability.
We could not be more thrilled to open Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s latest movie, TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, January 9 at the Royal and January 16 and the Playhouse and Town Center. The Belgian brothers behind L’Enfant and The Kid with a Bike recently spoke with Larry Rohter of the New York Times about their new film, which for the first time features a genuine movie star, Marion Cotillard:
Another Oscar season, another snub for the Dardenne brothers. Their “Two Days, One Night,” Belgium’s submission for the Academy Award for best foreign language film, won various festival and critics’ awards, as well as a European Film Award this month for Marion Cotillard’s taut performance as a factory worker whose job is in jeopardy. But the drama did not make the cut for the Oscar shortlist — the fourth time that the Dardennes, two of the most acclaimed European filmmakers, have been passed over by Hollywood.
In “Two Days, One Night,” which opened on Wednesday, Ms. Cotillard plays Sandra, who has been fired from her assembly line job at a small solar panel plant, but has been given a tiny ray of hope: If she can persuade a majority of her fellow workers to forgo the bonus they are to receive upon her dismissal, she will be reinstated. Over a frantic weekend, she visits her coworkers at home or at play, and encounters the most diverse of responses.
“We were working on another screenplay, but then, with the repercussions of the economic crisis that came in 2008 but really started to show up in 2011 and 2012, there were industries that started to shut down, not just in our region, but in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, all over Europe,” said Luc Dardenne, who, at 60, is three years younger than his brother, Jean-Pierre.
“That’s when we said to ourselves, ‘It’s timely to do this film now.’ ”
In October, the Dardennes visited to talk about “Two Days, One Night,” which had its United States premiere at the New York Film Festival and had already been chosen as Belgium’s Oscar entry. In an interview, conducted through an interpreter, they discussed the origins and guiding spirit of the movie, as well as their difficulty in connecting with Oscar voters. Here are edited excerpts from the conversation:
Q. You’re on record as having said you wanted to make this movie for at least a decade. Why?
JEAN-PIERRE DARDENNE: Ten years ago or so, there was a book edited by Pierre Bourdieu, a series of sociological studies called “The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society.” The book had probably 15 case studies and 15 analyses, and one of these stories was a worker cast aside because of the influence of managers, who got the other workers to agree to push him aside. This worker was probably a little less productive at his job, and therefore that team was never getting its bonuses. Luc and I talked about this story numerous times, and we just never could get it off the ground. Until other factors tied into it. So it’s that story, which has to do with a lack of solidarity, that got us going.
Q. Part of your usual process is to work with a cast that doesn’t have big international names in it. This time, though, Marion Cotillard is a major figure. Tell me about that decision.
JEAN-PIERRE: It’s true, at the start, we did want to work with a star. We wanted to see if it was possible to integrate a star into our family and to see if she would be able to function as a member. We’d seen her in a number of movies, but said we have to meet her. And we had a great excuse: we were co-producers of [her 2012 drama] “Rust and Bone,” so we went to the set, and Luc and I said, “If we feel a connection, then we’ll say to her, ‘We’d like to work with you.’ ” And that was the case. It was cinematic love at first sight. For both of us.
Q. You portray a very European situation in this film. What kind of impact do you think it will have here, where the situation for workers may be even worse?
JEANPIERRE: We all live in the same world, and that’s a world in which everyone is pitted against each other constantly. Our society exacerbates the feeling of competition we have with each other. It’s always “You have to be the best, you have to be the strongest.”
LUC DARDENNE: Yes, and Sandra’s problem is not just losing her job, because worse than losing your job is to become isolated, when nobody comes to see you, and you lose your connection with others. That’s a big part of what her issue is. The real thing today is solitude.
Q. You’ve used the word solidarity several times in this interview. But if I remember correctly, nobody in the film ever says the word, do they?
JEAN-PIERRE: No, they don’t. The words they do use are: “Put yourself in my place. And in my place, what would you do?” The trajectory of the film is not one in which Sandra goes up against a dozen bastards. Really, to be in solidarity is to be able to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes, and what was important to us was to place the same importance on Sandra’s coworkers as on Sandra. We’re hoping that the audience member will identify with the characters and think, “What would I do?” That he’s not going to be sitting there casting judgment on who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.
Q. You’ve had a really good record at Cannes, but with the Oscars, not so much. Have you ever thought about why that might be?
JEAN-PIERRE: We don’t really know the whole Oscar process, but it’s starting to be more familiar. But we hope that, movie after movie, there is going to be a click. I prefer to have that perspective of hope.
LUC: We knew “Rosetta” [their 1999 film about a teenage girl’s struggle to escape poverty and her alcoholic mother] was not going to go anywhere, because we saw the pre-screenings, and people were walking out. At the end of the movie, there were 10 people in the audience. So we said to Belgium: ‘It’s not worth sending this film. It’s not going to win.’ But they did it because we had won the Palme d’Or.
JEAN-PIERRE: But we’re good guys. So maybe one day it will work.
With Russia on everyone’s minds more than usual this year, we are thrilled to offer a brilliant cinematic look at this nation with Andrey Zvyagintsev’s LEVIATHAN. The film, winner for Best Screenplay and a nominee for the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier this year, is a painterly, primordial tale about a proud patriarch fighting to protect his family home from a corrupt local official. Kolia lives in a small fishing town. It “puts contemporary Russia, as up-to-the-minute as Putin and Pussy Riot, under the microscope. LEVIATHAN is a stupendous piece of work that transcends language and borders.” The New York Daily News described the film as “a bleak, beautiful, and bitterly funny parable of post-Soviet Russia.”
In 2008, the Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev was in Manhattan shooting a chapter of the anthology film “New York, I Love You,” when he heard the story of an auto-repair shop owner in Colorado who had demolished the town hall and a former mayor’s house with an armored bulldozer after losing a zoning dispute. From that American seed has sprung “Leviathan,” a quintessentially Russian tragedy suffused with political and religious overtones.
“It was what this guy did, protesting against injustice, that impressed me most of all,” Mr. Zvyagintsev (pronounced ZVYA-ghin-tsev) said in an interview while in New York last month to promote “Leviathan,” which opens on Christmas Day. “My first feeling was, ‘Wow, what an amazing story, I absolutely need to do something with this.’ ”
His screenwriting partner, Oleg Negin, initially resisted, arguing, as Mr. Zvyagintsev recalled, that “this is an American story, why would we want this?” But as other influences drawn from the director’s reading made themselves felt — Heinrich von Kleist’s novella “Michael Kohlhaas,” the biblical Book of Job and, after the film already had its name, Hobbes’s treatise on the nature of the social contract — the specifically Russian characteristics of the movie’s story began to emerge.
The main character in “Leviathan” is Nikolai, who runs an auto-repair shop next to the house where he lives with his young wife and teenage son in a dead-end fishing village on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The mayor wants that land and uses his power to try to force the family out, and when Nikolai resists, the resulting series of events crushes him and those trying to help him.
Diverse as their origins may be, all of Mr. Zvyagintsev’s source materials share a common theme: the resistance of the individual to some arbitrary exercise of authority. That power may be corporate, political or even divine, but in each case, there is “a collision between a little person and a vast structure, the Leviathan,” Mr. Zvyagintsev explained.
“In a country like Russia, all the security, all the protection a member of society gets is from the establishment, police, army, health providers,” he said. “In exchange, people have to give back their freedom. I was overwhelmed with this idea. I saw it as a deal a human being might make with the Devil. Freedom is the main value a human being has, but sometimes, people don’t even notice it is being taken, because they are following the guarantees they were given.”
“Leviathan” thus appears to be an indictment of corruption and cynicism in Vladimir Putin’s increasingly authoritarian Russia. One scene, a brutal shakedown, takes place in the mayor’s office as a portrait of Mr. Putin looks on, and in another, two characters on a picnic excursion shoot up portraits of Soviet leaders from Lenin to Gorbachev and joke about when those now in power might be added to the garbage heap.
“This is how a Russian person treats power, with irony and contempt,” Mr. Zvyagintsev said when asked about that scene’s significance. “If people hold high positions, they should expect to be treated like that, if they have common sense, if they have self-irony.”
It was suggested to him that Mr. Putin lacked both a sense of humor and self-irony. “Yes, it’s a very hard job,” he replied, deadpan, declining to say anything further on the subject.
“Leviathan” has made a splash internationally. It won an award for best screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival last spring, was nominated this month for a Golden Globe for best foreign language film, and, to the surprise of those who thought its audacious subject matter would doom its chances, it is also Russia’s submission for the Oscar in that category. A. O. Scott of The New York Times named it one of the 10 best films of 2014.
Within Russia, “Leviathan,” which was partly financed by a government fund for filmmaking, has been controversial. “It’s talented, but I don’t like it,” the country’s minister of culture, Vladimir Medinsky, said last summer. For a while, until Mr. Zvyagintsev agreed to bleep offending words, it even appeared that the film would fall afoul of a new law that went into effect in July prohibiting obscene language in cultural projects.
But “Leviathan” is not exclusively — or even primarily, if Mr. Zvyagintsev is to be believed — about politics in today’s Russia. As reflected in his three earlier films, including “Elena,” released in the United States in 2012, he is deeply interested in moral and even overtly religious questions and describes Nikolai as “a righteous sufferer, the subject of an experiment.”
Nancy Condee, author of “The Imperial Trace: Recent Russian Cinema” and a specialist in Russian and Soviet cultural politics at the University of Pittsburgh, described Mr. Zvyangintsev as a director “actively and intensely engaged with spiritual issues in an allegorical biblical framework. “He is clearly a deep believer, in a noninstitutional sense,” she continued, and his films are full of “arrows pointing up to the sky, pitching you upward, away from a reality that is debased.”
In the scene that gives the movie its title, Nikolai, drunk and depressed, encounters a Russian Orthodox priest and questions the fate that has befallen him. The priest, a confidant of the mayor, responds by quoting from the Book of Job: “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook? Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you?”
The Russian actor Aleksey Serebryakov, who plays Nikolai, said by telephone this month that “the most complex thing in this role, in my character’s life, is this question: ‘Where are you, merciless God?’ ”
For all its grim subject matter, “Leviathan” is beautiful visually, with one long shot after another conferring a stark beauty on a harsh and barren landscape. In an email, Sitora Alieva, program director of the Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival in Sochi, said that Mr. Zvyagintsev brings a “unique poetic taste to cinema” and describes him as the most famous Russian film director working today.
But early in his career, Mr. Zvyagintsev, now 50, did not seem a likely candidate for such distinctions. He was born well outside the Moscow-St. Petersburg axis that dominates Russian culture, in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, and after moving to Moscow struggled for years to find a niche, first as an actor and then as a director. Among his early efforts was a commercial for a furniture store.
“He comes from the provinces, and that is something important to take into consideration,” said Peter Rollberg, the author of “The A to Z of Russian and Soviet Cinema” and a professor of Slavic languages and film studies at George Washington University. “Coming from far away, he brings a freshness of perception.”
Asked about growing pressures on free expression, Mr. Zvyagintsev said that given that he was born in Russia and had lived there his entire life, he hoped to be able to continue making films in his homeland. But Mr. Serebryakov moved his family to Canada three years ago, saying then that he would “like my children to grow up under a fundamentally different ideology” than the system of “coarse intolerance and aggressive behavior” he saw prevailing in Russia. He now returns home only for work on projects like “Leviathan.”
“To tell you the truth, I’d rather speak about the movie,” he said in response to a request to elaborate on those earlier remarks. “I’m not inclined to speak about politics. Yes, it’s a rather complex situation in Russia today, but I really hope it will change.”
This coming Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Broadway production with our 7th Annual Fiddler On the Roof Sing-Along!
Join us (at any of our venues) for our traditional, yet non-traditional Christmas Eve experience as we sing along with Tevye and the shtetl to iconic favorites like “Tradition”, “If I Were a Rich Man”, “Matchmaker”, “To Life”, “Sunrise Sunset” and many others.
GET TICKETS to the event before it sells out!
In addition to movie and song, the audience will be regaled with Fiddler history and trivia, with prizes being awarded to Fiddler buffs with the quickest recall. In this “anything goes” event, attendees are encouraged to come dressed up as their favorite characters. Who knows, perhaps the host will award prizes for best costume as well!
Speaking of the host, each location will feature an emcee that will lend their distinctive personality to the proceedings. Here’s the rundown:
– NoHo 7 will be hosted by our very own GREG LAEMMLE, originator of the Fiddler Sing-Along tradition!
FOOD ALERT: The Deli Doctor food truck will be outside the NoHo 7 to satisfy all your cravings!
– The Royal will be hosted by award-winning arts journalist and author BARBARA ISENBERG. Barbara’s most recent book (just released by St. Martin’s Press) happens to be Tradition!, a definitive history and account of the Fiddler phenomenon. You won’t want to miss Barbara and her stories!
BOOK ALERT: Barbara will be signing copies of TRADITION! at the Royal, where they will also be for sale. Plus, we will be giving away a signed copy of the book at each of the locations as a Trivia Prize.
– Town Center audiences will laugh along with comedian and cantor KENNY ELLIS from Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita. Kenny has performed around the globe and can also be caught locally at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood.
– The Playhouse will be treated to the incomparable DEBRA LEVINE, a journalist and publisher of the popular cultural blog, “arts•meme“. With a special interest in dance and choreography, Debra offers unique insight into the staging of both the film and musical.
FOOD ALERT: Asian food truck RICE BALLS OF FIRE will be joining us at the Playhouse!
– Claremont 5 attendees will enjoy the 2nd straight appearance of PAUL BUCH, cantor Temple Beth Israel in Pomona. Cantor Buch draws on a 25 year TV and film career to provide a uniquely entertaining evening.
– Music Hall will feature dynamic husband and wife duo of Doug Petrie and Alexa Junge. Doug and Alexa come to us from the congregation of IKAR, a community well-respected (among other things) for knowing how to throw a good party!
In sum, those looking for an alternative Christmas Eve experience need look no further. “This is your once-a-year chance to be the star of the shtetl,” observes Greg Laemmle. “Join voices with friends and neighbors and sing your heart out alongside Fiddler’s screen legends,” he continues. “And it’s okay if you haven’t memorized all the songs. We provide the lyrics.”
As in years past, Fiddler on the Roof Sing-Along takes place at all Laemmle locations on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) starting at 7:30pm. Reserve your tickets now before it’s too late!
AFTERMATH stars Anthony Michael Hall and Elisabeth Röhm, filmmaker Thomas Farone, producer/co-writer Sean Boyle, executive producer Jonathan Brandstein, associate producer Michalina Scorzelli, and composer David Kitay will participate in Q&A’s at the Town Center after the 3 and 7:40 PM screenings on opening day, Friday, December 5.
Anthony Michael Hall plays the owner of a profitable construction company whose perfect life is interrupted when a charismatic ex-convict Tony Bricker (Chris Penn) is fired and his foreman (Jamie Harrold) goes missing.
Many U.S. arthouse moviegoers were wowed last year when they were introduced to Toni Servillo, one of Italy’s finest actors, in The Great Beauty. The film went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. Next Friday the 28th we are excited to open Mr. Servillo’s latest film to make the journey from overseas, VIVA LA LIBERTA. Servillo plays Enrico Oliveri, a politician who realizes that the decline of his party is inevitable and decides to disappear, fleeing to Paris to find peace in the home of his ex-girlfriend Danielle (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi) while creating a panic within the party. His top aide and his wife decide to contact his twin brother, a genius philosopher suffering from bi-polar disorder and living in a psychiatric institution. The three of them concoct a dangerous plan.
We will open VIVA LA LIBERTA at the Royal, Playhouse and Town Center on Friday, November 21.
The documentary SHADOWS FROM MY PAST, which we open this Friday at the Town Center 5, juxtaposes interviews of prominent contemporary Austrians grappling with their nation’s complicity in the Holocaust with desperate letters written by filmmaker Gita Kaufman’s Jewish family from Vienna, 1939 – 1941, begging to save their children. Both the interviews and the letters reverberate to today.
SHADOWS FROM MY PAST co-director Gita Kaufman will participate in Q&A’s after the 8 PM screenings on Friday and Saturday and the 1 PM and 3:20 PM screenings on Sunday.