‘The Whistlers’ Director on How a Documentary and a Lot of Classic Noir Films Inspired His New Comedy
A version of this story about “The Whistlers” first appeared in the International Film issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.
Director Corneliu Porumboiu was a central member of the influential New Romanian Cinema, which has shockingly been completely ignored by Oscar voters. His new film, “The Whistlers,” is his second to represent that country in the Oscar race after his deadpan, talky 2009 film “Police, Adjective.” Porumboiu discussed his new movie, a wry film noir about a detective on one of the Canary Islands, where the residents have perfected a language that consists entirely of whistling.
I know this film was inspired when you saw something on TV about the whistling language on the island of La Gomera, but how did you get from that to this particular story?
I was all the time interested to have in the center of the film the process of whistling. I wanted to make a film about a guy who was going to learn the language to do something bad, and after that this language became more important to him. All the time I was thinking, “Let’s do this film with this second character from ‘Police, Adjective’ — someone who in his ideology can’t last.”
Was it always clear that this was going to be a genre movie, a film noir?
The film can be very funny, but it’s a deadpan, dry humor.
This was your biggest budget film. Did you run into challenges because of its scale?
Does it seem as crazy to you as it does to some of us that Romania has never even been nominated for an Oscar in the international category?
Read more from the International Film issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.
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www.thewrap.com | 11/19/19
‘Wings of Desire’ Writer Peter Handke and Polish Author Olga Tokarczuk Win Nobel Prize in Literature
Austrian author and screenwriter Peter Handke and Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Swedish Academy announced Thursday.
Tokarczuk technically won the 2018 prize, which was not handed out last year as the Swedish Academy was engulfed in a scandal over its handling of sexual misconduct by the husband of one of its members. The panel announced at that time that the 2018 and 2019 awards would be announced simultaneously in 2019.
Sure enough, Thursday morning, they were.
The Nobel committee cited Handke “for an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience.”
In addition to his many novels, including 1966’s “The Hornets,” Handke has also written plays and screenplays, including for Wim Wenders’ classic “Wings of Desire” and “Wrong Move” as well as the 1978 adaptation of his own novel “The Left-Handed Woman” that he also directed.
Tokarczuk, who won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for “Bieguni” (“Flights”), which was published in Polish in 2007 and English in 2017, won the 2018 Nobel “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life.”
She broke through with her third novel “Primeval and Other Times,” published in Polish in 1996 and translated into English in 2010, and followed that with the 2014 historical novel “The Books of Jacob” that the committee called her “magnum opus.”
Like Handke, she has also worked in film, collaborating with writer-director Agnieszka Holland on the 2017 crime film “Spoor” (“Pokot”), an adaptation of her novel “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead.” The film was Poland’s entry for the foreign language film Oscar, but did not receive a nomination.
Last year was the first time since 1943 that the Academy did not award the Nobel Prize for Literature, which has happened six prior times: 1914, 1918, 1925, 1940, 1941, and 1942. In four of those instances, the Academy awarded a winner at the same time as the following year’s.
The Academy was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal over the actions of Jean-Claude Arnault, who is closely tied to the organization and the husband of one its members, Katarina Frostenson. In 2017, a Swedish newspaper reported that Arnault had harassed or assaulted 18 women, and since, more accusations came out, including that he groped Sweden’s Crown Princess, Victoria.
The head of the Academy, Sara Danius, stepped down in April.
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www.thewrap.com | 10/10/19
The world premieres of James Mangold’s “Ford v Ferrari,” the Safdie brothers’ “Uncut Gems,” Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” Tom Harper’s “The Aeronauts,” Kelly Reichardt’s “First Cow” and Rupert Goold’s “Judy” will highlight the lineup of the 2019 Telluride Film Festival. The festival announced its slate of films on Thursday, one day before the three-day event will kick off in the Colorado mountain town.
Stars headed to the Colorado mountain town should include Matt Damon and Christian Bale for the auto-racing drama “Ford v Ferrari,” Adam Sandler for “Uncut Gems,” Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones for the period piece “The Aeronauts” and Renee Zellweger for the Judy Garland story “Judy.”
Special tributes and Silver Medallion Awards will be presented to Zellweger, Adam Driver and director Philip Kaufman.
Portions of Ken Burns’ upcoming documentary series, “Country Music,” will also be screened in Telluride, as will Agnes Varda’s final film, “Agnes by Varda,” Davis Guggenheim’s Bill Gates documentary “Inside Bill’s Brain” and Trey Edward Shults’ “Waves.”
The three short films will include “Lost and Found” and “Into the Fire,” both by Orlando von Einsiedel, the Oscar-winning director of the short “The White Helmets.”
The festival, which selects a carefully-curated group of about two dozen films, has also opted to showcase a number of films from this year’s Cannes Film Festival, including Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain and Glory,” Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” Terrence Malick’s “A Hidden Life,” Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole” and Bong Joon Ho’s Palme d’Or winner, “Parasite.”
Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” Fernando Meirelles’ “The Two Popes” and Lauren Greenfield’s “The Kingmaker” are among the films that will go to Telluride after premiering at the Venice Film Festival. “Marriage Story” is the only film to be playing all four of the fall festivals – Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York – while “The Kingmaker” is the only documentary to be screening at Venice, Telluride and Toronto.
Telluride typically showcases a group of films that include many Oscar nominees-to-be, though its eight-year streak of screening the eventual Best Picture winner came to an end last year when “Green Book” skipped Telluride, premiered in Toronto and went on to win the top prize. Of last year’s Telluride selections, only two, “Roma” and “The Favourite,” would receive best-pic nominations, though the 2018 selection also included Oscar winners “Free Solo” (documentary feature) and “First Man” (visual effects) and nominees “Cold War,” “Shoplifters” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Telluride screenings begin on Friday and end on Monday.
· THE AERONAUTS (d. Tom Harper, U.S. – U.K., 2019)
Selections from guest director Pico Iyer:
Additional film revivals:
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www.thewrap.com | 8/29/19
This weekend, a European phenomenon is back — though Americans may have to hunt for clips on YouTube or seek out a VPN and watch via another country’s home broadcaster.
The Eurovision Song Contest, a cross between “The X Factor” and the Miss Universe pageant that offers Yanks a glimpse of what it’s like to be in a culture that doesn’t have jazz and blues as the foundation of its pop music.
For those who’ve never seen — or even heard of Eurovision — before, here’s a quick primer to get you caught up.
What exactly is this contest?
That sounds like a pretty noble goal.
Then there are the artists themselves. As Eurovision has evolved, more and more ridiculous acts have come out of the woodwork. Finnish monster-rock bands, Russian grandmas and Latvian pirates are among the acts that have performed for a TV audience of hundreds of millions in recent Eurovisions. And that Finnish monster rock band actually won.
Jeez! So is this just some musical freak show?
There’s also a small handful of top stars on the winners’ list you might recognize. ABBA used Eurovision as a launch pad to stardom in 1974 with their song “Waterloo,” and French-Canadian Celine Dion’s win in 1988 was her biggest claim to fame before “Titanic” came out. Quality — or at least creativity — does tend to win out at Eurovision.
OK, so how does this contest work?
Then the show transitions to a long procession of national “ambassadors” reading out who each country gave their votes to. The top 10 performers in each country’s vote get points, with 12 points going to the top vote-getter, followed by 10 and then eight down to one for the rest of the order. The same goes with the juries, but with 10 points going to the performer in first place.
And what does the performer with the most points win?
What? No prize money? No contract? No vague promises of superstardom?
Even now, a good chunk of the acts are homogenous power ballads that can blur together when performed in succession. Still, Eurovision is worth watching just for the spectacle of it all. The Disneyland-esque sweetness of the proceedings is charming, and the lack of stakes for the performers keeps it feeling light and fun rather than a battle for wealth, glory, and continental supremacy.
It has also made headlines in recent years that have allowed it to take steps beyond the realm of annual oddities like the Running of the Bulls. The winner in 2014 was gay Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, who performed as drag queen superstar Conchita Wurst. The victory transformed Conchita into an LGBT icon in Europe, even as Russian conservatives raged in fury and used the singer as an example of why Russia shouldn’t be a part of the EU. For all of Eurovision’s platitudes about tolerance and peace, this was a moment where those ideals were actually acted upon, even if it meant breaking the general tone of inoffensiveness.
If it’s supposed to be European, why is Australia a competitor?
So…if all these countries that aren’t strictly European are competing, does this mean we may be seeing the USA compete in Eurovision soon?
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www.thewrap.com | 5/18/19
Swedish culture has been described as characterised by egalitarianism combined with openness to certain aspects of international culture. Lutheranism, trade unionism, and self-reliance are aspects that have been associated with Swedish mentality. Sweden did not formally abolish slavery until the middle of the 14th century, but did not have serfdom in the Middle Ages and peasant freeholders constituted about 40% of the population and was one of four estates (together with nobles, clergy, and burghers) in the diet.