More stories

  • in

    In the Weeds of ‘In the Heights’

    The film adaptation of the Tony-winning musical “In the Heights” was released this month, one of the first blockbuster movies to arrive after more than a year of pandemic shutdowns. The original musical was the breakthrough for Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote its music and lyrics and went on to gain global fame with “Hamilton.”The film opened to successful box office numbers, but also spawned several critical conversations, particularly about the lack of Afro-Latino representation among the film’s lead actors, and the ways in which it failed to capture the full mosaic of the actual neighborhood of Washington Heights.On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about Miranda’s evolutionary approach to the musical theater lineage, how the film left certain elements of the musical on the cutting room floor and the critical blowback brought on by the film’s casting choices.Guests:Sandra Garcia, a Styles reporter for The New York TimesIsabelia Herrera, an arts critic fellow for The New York Times’s Culture deskLena Wilson, a film critic who has written for The New York Times, Slate and others More

  • in

    Five Action Movies to Stream Now

    From flicks about vengeful gangsters to sagas of postapocalyptic survival, this month’s picks include films from around the globe.For action movie fans looking for new thrills to watch at home, there are a lot of car chases, explosions and fights (knife, sword and fist) to sift through. We’re helping to make the choice easier by providing some streaming highlights. More

  • in

    Eva Sereny, Who Photographed Film Stars at Work, Dies at 86

    She captured De Niro, Streep, Eastwood and many others, often in unguarded moments. Working with directors like Fellini and Spielberg inspired her to make movies herself.In 1972, Eva Sereny was in Rome photographing rehearsals for “The Assassination of Trotsky,” starring Richard Burton as the Russian revolutionary, when his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, who was not in the movie, visited the set.One of Ms. Sereny’s shots captured a moment in the celebrated stars’ famously turbulent marriage, which would soon end: the two staring icily at each other, as if they were re-enacting the tensions between their characters in the 1966 film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”“It was obvious something was going on,” she told The Guardian in 2018. “You could feel it — there was no great love between them. I don’t remember them even noticing the shot, which was taken at a distance from below. If it had been a close-up of their faces, it would have just been two people looking not very nicely at each other. The body language brings it all together.”“You could feel it — there was no great love between them,” Ms. Sereny said of her 1972 photograph of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “The Assassination of Trotsky.”Eva Sereny/Iconic ImagesThe Taylor-Burton picture was one of many notable images in Ms. Sereny’s decades-long career as a photographer, principally on hundreds of movie sets around the world. She took portraits, candid shots and publicity photos of stars like Marlon Brando, Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, Robert De Niro, Jacqueline Bisset, Clint Eastwood, Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery and Harrison Ford.Ms. Sereny died on May 25 in a hospital near her home in London. She was 86.The cause was complications of a massive stroke, said Carrie Kania, the creative director of Iconic Images, which handles Ms. Sereny’s archive and, with ACC Art Books, published “Through Her Lens: The Stories Behind the Photography of Eva Sereny” in 2018.Ms. Sereny was on location for the first three Indiana Jones films and snapped a widely known portrait of Mr. Ford, who played Jones, and Mr. Connery, who played his father, on the set of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989). She was on the island of Mykonos for the filming of “The Greek Tycoon” in 1978 when she photographed Anthony Quinn dancing on the edge of the Aegean Sea.And on the set of Bernardo Bertolucci’s erotic drama “Last Tango in Paris” (1972), she overcame Brando’s distrust of photographers and took pictures of him laughing, lighting Mr. Bertolucci’s cigarette and talking to his co-star, Maria Schneider.Ms. Sereny was on the island of Mykonos for the filming of “The Greek Tycoon” in 1978 when she photographed Anthony Quinn dancing on the edge of the Aegean Sea.Eva Sereny/Iconic Images“There was something very considerate about the way he spoke to me,” she said in “Through Her Lens.” She recalled that she told him taking photos in unposed moments produced “the most interesting images,” and that “he sympathized with my take and said, ‘Well, look, all right.’”Eva Olga Martha Sereny was born in Zurich on May 19, 1935, to Hungarian-born parents. Her father, Richard, was a chemist; her mother, also named Eva, was an actress before they married.When her father traveled to England on business soon after the start of World War II, he was unable to return to Switzerland; Eva and her mother joined him in 1940. After the war, Mrs. Sereny opened a flower shop in the Burlington Arcade in London.Ms. Sereny was on location for the first three Indiana Jones films and snapped a widely known portrait of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as father and son on the set of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989).Eva Sereny/Iconic ImagesEva’s photography career did not start until well after she moved to Italy when she was 20. There she married Vincio Delleani, an engineer, and had two sons, Riccardo and Alessandro. When her husband was in a car accident in 1966, she thought about a career.“I remember sitting beside him in the hospital thinking, ‘My God, but for a few seconds I would be a widow,’” she told The Guardian. “‘I’ve got to do something. I’m quite artistic, though I can’t draw. What about photography?’”Her husband set up a darkroom in the basement of their house, and she started working with his Rolleiflex camera. A friend of hers, who ran the Italian Olympic committee, asked her to take pictures of young athletes in training. She then took a chance and flew to London, where she pitched her work to The Times of London.Soon after she showed her photos of the athletes to the paper’s picture editor, The Times printed several of them.With help from a film publicist in Rome, Ms. Sereny spent two weeks on the set of Mike Nichols’s “Catch-22” (1970). It was the first of hundreds of movie set assignments, which would lead to the publication of her pictures in outlets like Elle, Paris Match, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Time and Newsweek over the next 34 years.One of her frequent subjects was Ms. Bisset, whom she photographed first during the filming of Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night” (1973) and then on the sets of “The Deep” (1977), “Inchon” (1981) and “The Greek Tycoon.”Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset on the set of “The Deep” (1977). “She could be argumentative,” Ms. Bisset said of Ms. Sereny, who photographed her on the set on four movies, “and she could make me laugh.”Eva Sereny/Iconic Images“She was refined in a very feminine way, and enjoyed her work,” Ms. Bisset said by phone. “When we started, she was bossy because I wasn’t doing what she wanted, but we became friends. She could be argumentative and she could make me laugh.“One day, she jolted me when she said, ‘Be sexy,’ and I’d say, ‘What do you mean?’ It was such an impossible command, and I’d ask, ‘What do you want me to do? Be more specific.’”Ms. Sereny’s work on movie sets enabled her to study the technique of directors like Nichols, Truffaut, Bertolucci, Federico Fellini (“Casanova”), Steven Spielberg (“Always” and the Indiana Jones films) and Werner Herzog (“Nosferatu the Vampyre”).In 1984 she directed a film of her own: “The Dress,” a 30-minute short starring Michael Palin, about a man who purchases a dress for his mistress. It won the BAFTA award — the British equivalent of the Oscar — for best short film. A decade later, she directed a feature, “Foreign Student,” about a French exchange student (Marco Hofschneider) at a Virginia university who falls in love with a young Black grammar-school teacher (Robin Givens) in racially sensitive 1956.Reviewing that film for The Chicago Tribune, John Petrakis called it “a deftly handled look at forbidden love that also finds time between kisses to examine cultural differences in this classic fish-out-of-water tale.”Frustrated with the limited opportunities for female directors, especially those who were not young, Ms. Sereny did not make any other films. She retired from photography in 2004.Ms. Sereny and Steven Spielberg in 1984.Eva Sereny/Iconic ImagesMs. Sereny is survived by her sons; her partner, Frank Charnock; and four grandchildren. Her husband died in 2007.In 1973, Ms. Sereny was on the set of “The Last of Sheila,” a murder mystery set on a yacht, and given approval by the director, Herbert Ross, to photograph the cast as it rehearsed. But the sound of her shutter annoyed one of the film’s stars, Raquel Welch, who angrily demanded that Ms. Sereny leave because she had not been informed of her presence.Years later, she was assigned again to photograph Ms. Welch.“I just hoped and prayed she wouldn’t recognize or remember me,” Ms. Sereny said in “Through the Lens.” “Just pretend it never happened!”“From the moment we met again,” she added, “everything was perfect.” More

  • in

    ‘Rita Moreno’ Documentary Review: An Icon’s Growing Pains

    This paean to the trailblazing Puerto Rican actress is also a case study in the highs and lows of showbiz for a woman of color.Most documentaries about famous people tend to be exercises in celebrity worship, and “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” is no exception. Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, the film is a portrait filled with dazzling archival footage and shorn of ambiguities and unflattering viewpoints. Yet it is not your average paean because Moreno, a trailblazing Puerto Rican actress whose career spans more than seven decades, is not your average star.The film’s primary talking head among a parade of former collaborators and Latino luminaries — including Lin-Manuel Miranda (co-executive producer), Gloria Estefan and Eva Longoria — Moreno is given full rein of her story, which doubles as a case study in the highs and lows of showbiz for a woman of color.Under studio contract in the 1950s and ’60s, Moreno recounts the painful times she spent playing “illiterate, immoral island girls” and fending off Hollywood executives who demanded sexual favors. In one, likely staged, scene in the documentary, we see Moreno watching the 2018 Christine Blasey Ford testimony in her dressing room on the set of the Netflix series “One Day at a Time.” It’s a clunky way of transitioning to her own experiences with abuse, but nevertheless situates Moreno and her lifelong commitment to social activism along a feminist historical trajectory.After winning a best supporting actress Oscar for “West Side Story” in 1962 (she is one of only two Latina recipients of an acting Academy Award; Lupita Nyong’o, who was born in Mexico, became the second in 2014), Moreno’s career did not skyrocket in the way one might expect. Instead, it expanded across mediums and genres.This documentary credits her turn to comedy, television and stage acting for liberating her from her exotic sexpot persona. It’s almost hard to believe that the radiant Moreno we see in the film — who at 89 continues to epitomize that ineffable and rare quality we call star power — was ever restrained. Though this contrast is precisely what makes her story so enthralling and vital.Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for ItRated PG-13 for mature thematic content, suggestive material and some strong language including a sexual reference. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters. More

  • in

    ‘Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation’ Review: Friendship in Focus

    The director deftly constructs a dialogue between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams.Merging two biographies is a solid way to enliven the often-tedious genre of the literary documentary. But the connections drawn in “Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation” are sufficiently instructive that watching and listening to these writers is also, in a way, like hearing one author in stereo.The director Lisa Immordino Vreeland uses the friendship between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams to construct a dialogue between them, using the writing and appearances they left behind. Jim Parsons reads Capote’s words in voice-over and Zachary Quinto reads Williams’s. (There is a lengthy list of sources at the end; all credit to a documentary that shows its work.) For the visuals, Vreeland relies principally on archival material. Her most striking conceit is to show the writers in separate but parallel interviews with David Frost.We hear the Southern-born authors on their writing habits, on how autobiography inflects their narratives, on their homosexuality and on substance abuse. They express disappointment with films adapted from their work: Williams felt the censorship was so heavy you often needed to see the stage version for comprehension. Capote says Paramount “double-crossed” him by casting Audrey Hepburn (whom he nevertheless praises) instead of Marilyn Monroe in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”There is some bite in stories of their rivalry. (Capote apparently stung Williams with his description of a Williams-like character in his unfinished novel “Answered Prayers.”) “An Intimate Conversation” never quite digs beyond the cultivated personas of either author — a drawback of the archival format. But for anyone invested in the writers, it offers a vivid sketch.Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate ConversationNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 26 minutes. In theaters and in virtual cinemas through Kino Marquee. More

  • in

    ‘The French’ Review: A Candid Look at the French Open

    This documentary by William Klein relies on the unspoken or spontaneous moments to tell the tale of the 1981 Open, off court and on.Bjorn Borg won the French Open in 1981. It was his 11th, and final, victory in a Grand Slam tournament — and the sixth time he won this particular event. An ordinary filmmaker constructing a documentary on the Open that year would likely structure its narrative around the implacable, cool Swedish player’s road to glory there.But the American-born photographer and filmmaker William Klein, who spent most of his career working in or from France, is no ordinary filmmaker or photographer. And he was the first director invited by the event to capture the French Open for a feature film. He and his crew took a fly-on-the-wall approach that captures, among other things, what professional tennis looked like before corporatization fully warped it into the glossy commodity it is today. This exceptional 1982 film is getting its U.S. debut this week.In the backstage areas of Roland Garros in Paris, tennis hardly seems a glamorous profession. There’s a lot of waiting around, one-on-one physical therapy, obligatory meet-and-greets, and more. On-court rivals Chris Evert and Virginia Ruzici unite in amusement over Ilie Nastase’s clowning. The future French champion Yannick Noah contends with a sprained ankle. There’s not narration and not much in the way of formal interviews. One of the most trenchant scenes focuses on Paul Cohen, coach of the player Harold Solomon, as he analyzes his charge’s loss in real time. Arthur Ashe and Patrice Hagelauer are seen and overheard watching Noah play Guillermo Vilas.The tedium of various rainouts is chronicled faithfully. Klein and company also catch John McEnroe complaining of having to play in wet weather and sniping at an umpire for good measure. Hana Mandilkova’s near-bemusement at winning the women’s singles is also memorable. Klein weaves all these moments into a story one could call spectacularly earthbound.The FrenchNot rated. In English and French, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes. Watch through virtual cinemas. More

  • in

    ‘A Crime on the Bayou’ Review: Race on Trial

    Nancy Buirski’s documentary deals with a civil rights case in 1960s Louisiana that wound up before the Supreme Court.As a documentary, “A Crime on the Bayou,” directed by Nancy Buirski, is dryly told, but it has a potent idea, which is to show how even bureaucratic aspects of the legal system in the Deep South in the 1960s could be weaponized against Black Americans. To paraphrase Lolis Eric Elie, a son of a lawyer involved in the events in the film, part of what made Jim Crow totalitarian was its arbitrariness: A Black man never knew when he might suddenly be accused of a crime.The supposed crime here occurred in 1966, when Gary Duncan, a 19-year-old fisherman in Plaquemines Parish, La., intervened in a potential skirmish between two of his young relatives, who were students at a newly integrated school, and a group of white boys whom the relatives thought were trying to start a fight. Duncan says he touched a white boy’s arm. For that, he was charged with simple battery. The case wound its way to the United States Supreme Court, where Duncan won a right to a jury trial not previously guaranteed in Louisiana’s state courts.These events are recounted principally by Duncan himself and his lawyer, Richard Sobol, who died last year. Other major voices in the film are Elie and the civil rights lawyer Armand Derfner. Sobol, who was Jewish, recalls being targeted by Leander Perez, the parish’s racist and anti-Semitic political boss. And in covering the repercussions of the branching cases, “A Crime on the Bayou” shows how superficially straightforward, courageous acts — like refusing to plead guilty unjustly or defending the unjustly accused — are hard.A Crime on the BayouNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. In theaters. More

  • in

    ‘Summer of 85’ Review: Denim Embraces and Stolen Kisses

    A gay teenagers’s fleeting romance goes off the rails in this coming-of-age story from the French director François Ozon.When the moody, baby-faced Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) capsizes while on a solo trek off the coast of Normandy, France, he looks up and sees lightning in the distance accompanied by a grinning, Adonis-like boy named David (Benjamin Voisin), his savior and the embodiment of the coming storm.The two teenagers throw themselves into an intense friendship that quickly blossoms into a passionate affair filled with blissed-out motorbike rides on country roads, denim-padded embraces and stolen kisses between work shifts. Frothy pop tunes by ’80s bands like the Cure and Bananarama place Alexis’s sweltering coastal romance in the realm of starry-eyed nostalgia.The prolific French director François Ozon wants “Summer of 85” to be more than a gay coming-of-age romance in the vein of “Call Me By Your Name.” With an elliptical narrative that jumps back and forth from Alexis’s summer fling to an unspecified future in which he is being interviewed by a suspicious caseworker about the death of David, the film also aims to be pulpy and provocative, teasing the idea that its lovesick protagonist turns homicidal with jealousy. It ultimately stumbles in this balancing act and loses sight of its emotional core, but its efforts remain compelling and delightfully bizarre.Loosely adapted from Aidan Chambers’s young adult novel, “Dance on My Grave,” “Summer of 85” sees adolescent romance as outrageous and suffocating in its hormonal potency, yet also fleeting and illusory.Less a character study than an exercise in genre, the film leaves Alexis’s working-class background and the nuances of his sexual awakening unconsidered and undeveloped. Scenes become increasingly bonkers as the film hurdles toward tragedy. For instance, David’s cool mom (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) cracks after his death and turns into a resentful, wild-eyed psycho-biddy. Alexis teams up with a flirty British au pair who gives him a drag makeover and smuggles him into a morgue. Alexis’s glib narration of the scene unintentionally heightens the absurdity.Yet unlike many recent L.G.B.T.Q. romances that deploy retrograde views on homosexuality as a convenient tool for conflict, “Summer of 85” uses its vibrant throwback aesthetic to situate two gay men in a cultural fantasy typically reserved for straight couples: the date at the carnival that ends in a fistfight with an embittered “ex,” the star-crossed lovers who sneak around and make morbid, lifelong pacts.Toward the end of the film, reflecting on his time with David, Alexis realizes how he has become a character in a fantastic story — a story full of intrigue and drama, yes, but also one that is light and joyous. Too few queer characters, who are often saddled with tragedy, are so capable of moving on.Summer of 85Not rated. In French and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In theaters. More