A SXSW post-mortem, musings on Steven Soderbergh's retirement and Mickey Rourke's comeback, plus Julian Schnabel loves controversy
South by Southwest has run its course, but Eric Kohn and the indieWIRE crew take one last look back, offering 10 reasons "why SXSW still works." Among them: the Austin setting encourages stunts like the cricket-eating contest that followed a screening of "Bellflower" (below); the festival is "a unique venue for kickstarting experimental release strategies" and a big marketplace for little movies; and its awards "really matter" in bringing attention to movies that might otherwise be overlooked. (indieWIRE)
Director Steven Soderbergh has said that he's planning to retire after his next two movies. Jonathan Jones isn't sure he believes that. "Soderbergh … has gained a reputation as a serious film artist," he writes. "And retirement rarely seems to interest serious artists." His examples seem applicable to varying degrees – director Claude Chabrol could be a reasonable comparison, artists Lucian Freud, Cy Twombly, Michaelangelo and Titian maybe not so much – but he does point out that Shakespeare did it. Besides, Jones adds, "if [Soderbergh] really does get round to it, he will strike a blow against the myth of the artist as someone driven by passion and necessity to do what she or he does." And wouldn't that be an achievement? (The Guardian)
If Soderbergh does retire, then changes his mind and starts making movies again, he could be a new Hollywood comeback kid in a few years. But as Steven Zeitchik points out, that doesn’t always work as a career strategy, even if you come back with an acclaimed movie and an Oscar nomination. In a piece titled "What Happened to Mickey Rourke?," he charts the comeback that was supposed to have been launched by Rourke's nominated performance in "The Wrestler": a "tepidly received" role as the bad guy in "Iron Man 2," a forgettable slot amidst all the other onetime action stars in "The Expendables," and an indie movie ("Passion Play") that's getting only a limited release this summer. "It's not always easy to turn award-season goodwill into a fruitful new career," Zeitchik understates. (24 Frames)
"All this controversy is quite good," says Julian Schnabel of his new film, "Miral," in which the 59-year-old Jewish artist-turned-director tells a story of Israeli-Palestinian relations from the point of view of a young Palestinian woman who became politicized during the intifada more than 20 years ago. The film, which premiered at the United Nations last week, has drawn spirited criticism from Jewish groups that say it's a one-sided rendering that depicts Israel as the villain – but in an interview with Deborah Sontag, Schnabel says "I think it portrays Israel in an accurate way" and adds that the whole point was to put himself in the shoes of "a 16-year-old Palestinian girl." (He's now in a romantic relationship with the girl who wrote and inspired the story, Rula Jebreal.) "[T]he concept of having an even hand, to make something more balanced – I don’t think that's the job of an artist," Schnabel says (NewYorkTimes).
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