Alex Gibney’s “Going Clear” Documents Patterns of Abuse by Scientology

GoingClearPostercopyHBO’s documentary division has had a great two months. First, “CITIZENFOUR,” the documentary they produced about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden won an Oscar and was broadcast on the channel the day after the ceremony. Then, the critically acclaimed six-part true crime series “The Jinx” ended with new evidence (and a possible confession) that got its millionaire subject Robert Durst arrested again, giving the series enormous publicity and probably many new non-appointment viewers. And now, premiering in a theatrically limited release  as well as on HBO this Sunday, March 29 at 8pm ET/PT, Alex Gibney’s documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” has garnered a huge amount of buzz from both festival screenings and an attack campaign conducted by the film’s controversial subject: the Church of Scientology. The film is based on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled 2013 book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.” An investigative reporter for New Yorker magazine, Wright is also the author of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” which was also turned into a documentary for HBO. The book and film tell the story of L. Ron Hubbard, a man with a colorful background, made even more colorful by his constant confabulations; a man who holds the Guinness World record for the number of books published by a single man (over a thousand), who wrote a huge bestseller called “Dianetics” in 1950 which inspired a movement ultimately called “Scientology.” Read more

New York Film Festival: Frances Ha Ha, or Frances Weird?

Over the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about the 50th New York Film Festival, based on press screenings and films seen during the actual festival (September 28-March 14). In addition to the 33 main slate films, this year’s festival features many interesting sidebars, including a rich selection of episodes from the French TV series “Cinéastes de notre temps.” There are also gala tributes to Nicole Kidman (accompanied by the premiere of her new film “The Paperboy”) and to Richard Pena, who is leaving after 25 years as the head of the festival.

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Noah Baumbach’s exhilarating new film Frances Ha, co-written with and starring Greta Gerwig, is stylistically a love letter to the cinema of early Truffaut and Godard and even ‘70s Woody Allen. The story is ultimately about a deep friendship between two women (played by Gerwig and Mickey Sumner) in their late twenties —actually a rare subject for an American film— as Gerwig pointed out herself during the Q&A immediately following a recent press screening. Gerwig plays the titular character Frances (you don’t learn why it’s called “Frances Ha” until the end), a 27-year-old dancer in New York whose financially poor, but emotionally rich life is turned upside down when her best friend and roommate Sophie (Sumner) moves out of their apartment and in with her yuppie boyfriend. A search for work and cheaper lodging follows; she moves in with two hipster guys (one played by Adam Driver, best known as Lena Dunham’s inattentive lover in “Girls”), flies home for a Christmas trip to Sacramento (Gerwig’s real birthplace), takes a ruinously spontaneous two-day trip to Paris, and endures a stint as a dorm counselor at Barnard College. Read more