Abel Ferrara’s Mary has left New York.


Two weeks ago, I noted that Abel Ferrara’s Mary (2005), which stars Juliette Binoche as an actress who is deeply affected by her performance of Mary Magdalene, was finally coming to New York, years after it premiered in various European countries.

That engagement has come and gone, now, so here are some of the reviews and interviews that have popped up since my previous post.

Most significant is an interview that Ferrara did with FilmMaker magazine, in which he shares his views on the historical Jesus, the Gnostic gospels, and the role of women at the Last Supper, etc. Cinema Echo Chamber has a video interview with Ferrara, as well.

And then there are the reviews, and the sample paragraphs thereof.

Victor Morton, Rightwing Film Geek:

As for MARY, the less said, the better. I have no doubt that the prize it won at Venice was an f-you to Mel Gibson. It is not worthy of a prize at the world second-most-prestigious juried festival (and there’s lots of films I don’t like that I realize are aesthetically distinguished and “prize-worthy”. MARY is not. It is lazy, padded, unfocused and just felt unfinished and phoned-in.

Robert Davis, Paste Magazine:

Louder and more chaotic than its material seems to warrant, Abel Ferrara’s Mary feels like the condensed version of a much larger movie. It includes scenes from a religious epic, TV interviews, street fights, limo rides, infidelity, hypocrisy, apostasy, and conversion, but at a mere 83 minutes the whole thing’s over before it has even begun.

Daniel Kasman, The Auteurs’ Notebook:

When Ted questions the human and the spiritual in Jesus on his television show, when Marie leaves her fame as an actress for a life wandering between the Middle East and her “visions,” when Tony Childress fights to get his film viewed without any pre-judgment, locking himself in the projection booth, and, ultimately, when Ted’s dark night life—both work and play—leaves his wife dangerously alone, Mary is brashly asking the same frightful things across simultaneous scenes. Simplistic dramatic arcs are forsaken for utter and complete immediacy; Ferrara, like Samuel Fuller, delivers earnestness with a rare, complete, and often frightening directness. The vitality, the fear and the ecstasy of such a style, of Mary, makes the cinema of Abel Ferrara one of utter necessity.

M. Leary, Film – Think:

I have never actually liked Ferrara’s work, but I have also had a difficult time forgetting some of his most memorable images – such as the bad Lieutenant at the feet of Christ, which as a Jungian prefiguration of Gibson’s Jesus is one of the most effective Christ images in modern American cinema. Mary is likewise burdened by Ferrara’s “messiness,” but this time that messiness works with the grain of his characters in a realistic scramble for faith and redemption. Faith is messy, the search for the historical Jesus is messy, and fortunately, so is Ferrara’s film.

Leary also makes this brilliant comment at the Arts & Faith forum: “I completely disagree with the historiography and spirituality of the film, but I really enjoyed the way I disagreed with it.”

Other reviews are archived at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

See also the scene analysis that Matt Page posted nearly two years ago, when the film came out on DVD in Europe.

A weak dollar is good for my income.

Last year, I mentioned that the Canadian dollar was getting stronger and stronger, reaching heights it hadn’t seen since the 19th century, and that this was having an adverse effect on my income. It got to the point where every American dollar sent my way came to only 90 cents or so in Canadian currency.

But now things are getting back to, uh, normal, if such a word can be used in the current financial climate. The other day, I cashed a cheque and got $1.23 in Canadian funds for every American dollar. And today, according to the Globe and Mail, our dollar reached a four-year low, however briefly.

So, on the one hand, my income has gone up. But on the other hand, I will be making less purchases from American outlets, for now.

Meanwhile, Variety reports that the falling Canadian dollar is turning out to be good news for the Canadian film industry, because it means American filmmakers are more likely to spend their money here again.

Of course, if the dollar fell so quickly, there is no reason it couldn’t bounce back very quickly, too. And the Globe and Mail does say a “significant snap-back” is quite possible in the near future. So the good news the industry is hearing right now could turn bad again very suddenly. Hoo boy.

Bolt promo annoys theatre owners


If movie trailers can show up on DVDs, then I guess it only makes sense that DVD-ish bonus features should show up on the big screen.

Yesterday, I finally got around to seeing Beverly Hills Chihuahua, more out of a sense of professional obligation than anything else — and I was struck by how, before the film, there was a promo for Disney’s upcoming animated film Bolt, in which John Travolta and Miley Cyrus spoke directly to the camera, as themselves, to introduce two entire scenes from the movie (one of which seems to come from fairly late in the story arc).

This is the sort of promo that we see on DVDs all the time — if memory serves, Ben Stiller did a similar ad for the original Madagascar (2005) on the DVD for Shrek 2 (2004) — but I can’t recall seeing anything quite like this on the big screen before.

The nearest thing to a precedent that comes to mind is the original teaser for WALL·E, which featured talking-head footage of director Andrew Stanton — but only offered the briefest of glimpses of actual footage from the actual film.

Anyway, apparently I am not the only person who finds the Bolt promo a little unusual. John Horn and Patrick Goldstein, both writing for the Los Angeles Times, report that theatre owners are upset with Disney for running such a lengthy promo — thus eating into time that could have been available for other advertisers — and for getting the MPAA to classify the promo as a “short film”, complete with PG rating, rather than as an ad.

Disney says they won’t do it again, but who knows? Even if they abandon the practice, others might follow their lead.

A Bible study guide with no Bible references?


In their efforts to connect with the faith-based market, Hollywood studios sometimes distribute “Bible study guides” based on their movies. Indeed, sometimes these study guides are so movie-based that they fail to make any reference to the, uh, Bible. Case in point: the study guide for The Secret Life of Bees, in which a group of black women help young Dakota Fanning to get in touch with her sacred feminine side. CT Movies has the scoop.

Happy-Go-Lucky — the review’s up!

My review of Happy-Go-Lucky is now up at CT Movies.

Newsbites: Quantum of Solace edition!

Listed in order from the least spoiler-ish to the most spoiler-ish.

1. Gemma Arteron, one of the new film‘s co-stars, says she was born with six fingers on each hand, but the extra digits were removed when she was a child. I can’t help thinking that that’s just the sort of odd physical detail that Ian Fleming and the writers of these movies might have found interesting. — WENN

2. Mexican directors Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth) and Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) will both have “voice roles” in the new film, the latter as a helicopter pilot. — Associated Press

Warning: There be potential spoilers here.

3. For the first time in the franchise’s history, James Bond will not have sex with the primary Bond Girl. Says producer Michael Wilson: “Someone said they were disappointed there wasn’t a romance as such, but in our mind he couldn’t really have a romantic relationship . . . His relationship with Olga in this film is a romantic one in the purest sense of the word. It just isn’t a physical one. They’re sort of twin souls.” — Jam! Showbiz