As Ebertfest gathers for the sixteenth year, the Press again will contribute to the filmic festivities by providing swag for the official goodie bags. What form of swag? Books, surprisingly. We hope CFD entries on Pixar mastermind John Lasseter and the epic career of French filmmaker Agnès Varda will please festival goers as much as they’ve wowed the general public.
The list of filmmakers and film scholars in the series runs river deep and mountain high. Turn your camera onto a full range of the classic film studies brought to you straight from the UIP Dream Machine.
John Lasseter, by Richard Neupert
Celebrated as Pixar’s “Chief Creative Officer,” John Lasseter is a revolutionary figure in animation history and one of today’s most important filmmakers. Richard Neupert explores Lasseter’s signature aesthetic and storytelling strategies and details how he became the architect of Pixar’s studio style. Neupert contends that Lasseter’s accomplishments emerged from a unique blend of technical skill and artistic vision, as well as a passion for working with collaborators. As Neupert shows, Lasseter’s ability to keep a foot in both animation and CGI allowed him to thrive in an unconventional corporate culture that valued creative interaction between colleagues. The ideas that emerged built an animation studio that updated and refined classical Hollywood storytelling practices—and changed commercial animation forever.
Agnès Varda, by Kelley Conway
Both a precursor to and a critical member of the French New Wave, Agnès Varda weaves documentary and fiction into tapestries that portray distinctive places and complex human beings. Critics and aficionados have celebrated Varda’s independence and originality since the New Wave touchstone Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) brought her a level of international acclaim she has yet to relinquish.
Film historian Kelley Conway traces Varda’s works from her 1954 debut La Pointe Courte through a varied career that includes nonfiction and fiction shorts and features, installation art, and the triumphant 2008 documentary The Beaches of Agnès. Drawing on Varda’s archives and conversations with the filmmaker, Conway focuses on the concrete details of how Varda makes films: a project’s emergence, its development and the shifting forms of its screenplay, the search for financing, and the execution from casting through editing and exhibition. In the process, she departs from film history’s traditional view of the French New Wave and reveals one artist’s nontraditional trajectory through independent filmmaking.
Claire Denis, by Judith Mayne
Claire Denis has continued to make beautiful and challenging films since the 1988 release of her first feature, Chocolat. Judith Mayne‘s comprehensive study of these films traces Denis’s career and discusses her major feature films in rich detail.
Born in Paris but having grown up in Africa, Denis explores in her films the legacies of French colonialism and the complex relationships between sexuality, gender, and race. From the adult woman who observes her past as a child in Cameroon to the Lithuanian immigrant who arrives in Paris and watches a serial killer to the disgraced French Foreign Legionnaire attempting to make sense of his past, the subjects of Denis’s films continually revisit themes of watching, bearing witness, and making contact.
Edward Yang, by John Anderson
Having largely given up on a career in film, Edward Yang had been working as a computer engineer for several years when he saw Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God. Inspired to return to film, Yang, along with a handful of other filmmakers including the great Hou Hsiao-hsien, went on to found the Taiwanese New Wave of the early 1980s.
John Anderson‘s Edward Yang offers a comprehensive overview of the work of the writer-director from his breakthrough feature That Day, on the Beach to the epic Yi-Yi. Rooted in questions about what it means to be Taiwanese, Yang’s films reveal the complexity of life within the island’s patchwork culture. Anderson identifies the key narrative strategies, formal devices, moral vision, and sociopolitical concerns shot through Yang’s films.
Joel and Ethan Coen, by R. Barton Palmer
With landmark films such as Fargo, O Brother Where art Thou?, Blood Simple, and Raising Arizona, the Coen brothers have achieved both critical and commercial success. In Joel and Ethan Coen, R. Barton Palmer argues that the Coen oeuvre also forms a central element in what might be called postmodernist filmmaking. Mixing high and low cultural sources and blurring genres like noir and comedy, the use of pastiche and anti-realist elements in films such as The Hudsucker Proxy and Barton Fink clearly fit the postmodernist paradigm. Palmer argues that for a full understanding of the Coen brothers unique position within film culture, it is important to see how they have developed a new type of text within general postmodernist practice that Palmer terms commercial/independent.