Weekly Roundup – movies that take us to the movies, a little something from Sean Baker, and a lot of love for Elaine May’s Ishtar

Your handy one-stop-shop for film news, interviews, articles, and videos from the week that was.

With timelines for the reopening of cinemas starting to take shape in some parts of the world, Sight & Sound has taken it upon themselves to count off 80 films featuring scenes lit by the glow of the big screen. Their chronological list kicks off with D.W. Griffith’s Those Awful Hats, reminding us that, in an age before smart phones, ostentatious chapeaus were the bane of a filmgoer’s existence.

Readers who’ve visited the VIFF Centre may recall the John Lurie print that hung near the entrance to our balcony. Writing for Pitchfork, Madison Bloom examines the multi-hyphenate’s work as a composer, including his ongoing collaboration with Jim Jarmusch that kicked off with a cameo in Permanent Vacation. (And, as the article notes, 20 years after trying his hand at directing with Fishing with John, Lurie has now helmed Painting with John, which finds the artist holding court at his worktable.)

News recently broke that Red Rocket, Sean Baker’s much-anticipated followup to The Florida Project, is almost ready to launch. Cowritten with Chris Bergoch (who collaborated with Baker on his last three features), the film centres on a “suitcase pimp” who relocates from Los Angeles to his hometown in Texas. While wrapping up post-production on the feature, Baker has found time to indulge in some ’80s-era New York City grime with Khaite. Acknowledging the short piece’s debt to The Warriors, Baker has also pronounced, “This project has honestly been one of the most creatively cathartic experiences I have worked on. This is our crazy love letter to New York City and I hope audiences have as much fun watching as we had making it.”

Having shared a review of the new Mike Nichols biography last week, it’s only fair that we devote some space to his former improv partner Elaine May in this edition. Two years after declaring May “a criminally under-appreciated moviemaker,” Criterion has added A New Leaf, her masterful screwball comedy, to their streaming service. (They previously showcased Mikey and Nicky, her caustic take on the buddy [tragi]comedy genre.) Meanwhile, filmmaker Mark Cira has recently written a long piece for Talkhouse about how he came love May’s much-derided Ishtar:

“As a young and still very naïve director, it became apparent to me that Ishtar was as personal a film as any of her earlier works. It displayed May’s own vulnerabilities as she ventured into enemy territory. It revealed May’s outsider status in Hollywood, an often treacherous place for female artists to work. At the time of Ishtar’s release, less than one percent of American directors were women. (That number has now marginally increased to four percent.) That May, a comedic virtuoso siloed within the industry, managed to sell a bunch of stuffy male Hollywood executives on the success of a film like Ishtar is as unlikely as it is hilarious.”

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