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“What is Cinema?” – Chuck Workman’s Documentary to debut on Cohen Film Classics

Chuck Workman
Chuck Workman

Chuck Workman’s Documentary to debut on Cohen Film Classics

Friday, January 27 10pm KCET

By: Judy Shields

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 1/23/17 –  “I was very happy when they called me about having my documentary film be part of the Cohen Film Classics.  I really like the movie that I had done with Charles before I had made a larger film about Orson Welles, called “Magician” which played in theatres and film festivals.”  Filmmaker Chuck Workman told The Hollywood Times during a telephone conversation last week.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman’s documentary “What Is Cinema?” tackles the question of its title through over 100 clips and new interviews with Mike Leigh, Jonas Mekas, Yvonne Rainer, David Lynch, video artist Bill Viola, Robert Altman, Kelly Reichardt, Costa-Gavras, Ken Jacobs, Michael Moore, critic J. Hoberman, and others, and with archival interviews from Robert Bresson, Alfred Hitchcock, Chantal Akerman, Akira Kurosawa, Abbas Kiarostami, and more.

Chuck Workman
Chuck Workman

Cohen Film Classics will be premiering this Friday, January 27th at 10:00 p.m. PT on KCET and airing nationwide at 9 p.m.ET/PT on Link TV (DISH Network 9410, DirecTV 375) that will offer viewers a chance to see some of the most iconic films that defined the twentieth century cinema landscape.  Cohen Film Classics features the biggest names in entertainment, including Alfred Hitchcock, Vivien Leigh, Fritz Lang, Laurence Olivier, Luc Besson and more.  The series is hosted by Charles S. Cohen, president and CEO of Cohen Media Group, producer and distributor of critically acclaimed arthouse, foreign and classic films.



Jonas Meka
Jonas Meka

The series will debut with the television premiere of Academy Award® winner Chuck Workman’s (“Precious Images,” “The Source,” “Superstar”) documentary “What is Cinema?” This insightful documentary tackles the question of its title through more than 100 clips, archival interviews and new insights from some of the most notable names in films including Mike Leigh, Robert Altman and Akira Kurosaw.

During the premiere, KCET and Link TV will air an exclusive interview with Mr. Workman about his work and the documentary.

It was a great honor and pleasure to have had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Workman about his new documentary film.  He has put together a great documentary film about cinema.

Mr. Workman is currently working on the Oscar® show.  He creates the montages seen on the televised Academy Award shows, including the In Memoriam segment.  The Academy has to choose what members of the Academy they will use from sound people, designers, directors, producers, executives and publicity.

Mr. Workman said that Vertigo was just chosen by Sight & Sound, which is a very prestigious English magazine that sends out questionnaires to members to vote for the best movie.  For the first time in 50 years, a movie other than Citizen Kane has topped one of the most widely recognized canons in cinema – Sight & Sound’s esteemed 10-yearly poll of critical favorites. That film is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  For a long time, it has been nipping at Kane’s heels, having come second in this contest by just five votes a decade ago.

There is so much going on when you are watching a movie and Mr. Workman wanted to interview a variety of different film makers about their opinions of cinema  and a couple of film critics as well.

“People are not critics, people just go to the movies, in the same way they read a book, or a concert, or the experience of see new beautiful building for the first time.  They don’t necessarily have to know all the facts like other people to really appreciate that they are doing.  That was another reason I wanted to make the film.  What is important is the experience and with my film I was trying to show the artistic experience as well.”

THT: Do you have a mentor?

Mr. Workman: “When I moved to LA, I lived across from Robert Wise, the filmmaker from “West Side Story” and “Sound of Music” and he was also the President of the Academy and the Director’s Guild.  He really helped me out in many ways and I made a short for the Director’s Guild Anniversary show called “Precious Images” and it won an Oscar®.  He was very much a mentor in terms of helping me in my career.  He allowed me to do things that were not necessarily main stream at that time.”

THT:  Where do you keep your Oscar®?

Mr. Workman.  “Well, I will tell you a story.  When I first moved to LA, I lived in Topanga in a house on the hills.  It was a big, nice house, but there were 40 steps to get the house, because it was on the hillside.  I win the Oscar and I put it on a piano and living in that house.  One morning after I won the Oscar®, a guy came up to do some work in the house.  He came up the steps and the piano was in an open room and I was eating breakfast and he would look at me and look over at the piano and I was trying to be cool and just eat my breakfast.  He would look over at me and look at the piano again and he finally he turned to me and said “boy it must have been a bitch getting that piano up all those steps!”  Not even noticing the Oscar at all.” Boy did that story make me laugh and got a chuckle out of Mr. Workman.  He said “so, I keep it around.”  I also have a smaller one around the house that I bought at an airport that says ‘world’s best grandma’ that is my wife’s Oscar® that sits next to it.  I proudly show it.”

THT:  Other film is your favorite?

Mr. Workman: “I like “Vertigo,” I love “Citizen Kane,” and I was so happy to make a film about Welles.  The American directors for me were Welles, Hitchcock, and Robert Altman, I love “Nashville.”  I had to pick a film for a film festival in the 70s, which there were some great films in the 70s, but I picked “Nashville.”  I think it is a tie between “Nashville,” “Citizen Kane” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”, I feel those three, Kubrick, Altman and Welles are the three greatest American directors/film makers.”

THT: Is there a film that you wish you may have directed?

Mr. Workman: “Oh sure, I say that all the time, I say, oh gosh I wish I would have done that, but, usually if you like something, you wouldn’t have done it the same way.  I’m happy with the films that I have made and I hope I can keep making them.  I have made feature films myself that you have not heard, so I keep working and I make a lot of shorts.  I can’t really say, I love certain foreign films Fahrenheit 451, which is a film that Francois Truffaut made about burning books, that is a beautiful film with Oskar Werner and Julie Christie. I also love Fahrenheit 911, which is Michael Moore documentary film, which I feel Michael Moore is a very important film maker.”

WIC_Fest_1Sht_Final.inddTHT:  What is your vision of cinema to come?

Mr. Workman:  “I think a lot of it is in “What is Cinema” it is what I believe.  I do believe in that we really have to look at a film in all its aspects, it’s music and in its photography, writing, acting, production and editing.  The audience should be responsive to the movie.  Not always simplified, just immersed in the experience of noticing things in the movie.  I don’t think audiences notice enough and I want them to.  I want them to watch harder!”

“See exactly what that artist is trying to tell us, not in words necessarily, but in their particular medium and that’s really what I try to do.”

I told Mr. Workman that all of us movie goers must realize that movies came from pictures, they tell a story on moving films now.  Grasp what it is showing us.

Mr. Workman said he at times losses track of the plot of the movie.  He will ask his wife what just happened because he was watching something else in the film.  “Think of a family photograph and you say something like I didn’t notice she had that dress on, you just notice those things because you took the time to really look at it.  A great filmmaker can take those types of things to get their message across, whatever that might be.”

This a great piece of documentary work that Mr. Workman put together in his new film “What is Cinema?”.  If you are going to be away from your television this Friday, make sure you record this film, it is one you don’t want to miss. It will make you look at films differently, and hopefully appreciate them more as an art form.

Some quotes from Chuck Workman’s “What is Cinema?”:

“When we experience a film we prime ourselves for illusion. We make way for it in our imagination.” – Ingmar Bergman

“The screen must speak its own language, freshly coined.” – Alfred Hitchcock

“Make visible what, without you, might never have been seen.” – Robert Bresson

“When I ride off into the sunset, I want my own horse.” – Runaway Bride

“All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” – Jean-Luc Godard

“These things are there for you. Why manipulate them?” – Roberto Rossellini

“A film is not ready-made. It makes itself as it goes along.” – Robert Bresson

“If you’re not gonna pay attention, you’re not gonna get it, so you might as well leave.” – Robert Altman

“No one writing about or talking about or describing a film could say more than cinema itself.” – Federico Fellini

“If I just shoot a few scenes out of focus, I could go somewhere and win a big film award.” – Billy Wilder

Following the premiere of  What is Cinema  on Jan. 27, the February lineup will telecast as follows (lineup subject to change):

sudden-fear-movie-poster“Sudden Fear” (1952)  – Feb. 3, 2017 – immediately follows KCET MUST SEE! Movies at 8 p.m. PT on KCET and at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV: The story of a successful Broadway playwright (Joan Crawford) who rejects a young actor (Jack Palance), only to later fall in love and marry him. When the young actor learns that she plans to leave her fortune to a charity when she dies, he conspires with an old girlfriend to have her killed.

hangmen-also-die-movie-poster“Hangmen Also Die” (1943)  – Feb. 10, 2017 – immediately follows KCET MUST SEE! Movies at 8 p.m. PT on KCET and 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV:  Fritz Lang’s noir espionage thriller set in occupied Czechoslovakia revolves around the plot by the Resistance to assassinate Deputy Reich-Protector  Hangman  Reinhard Heydrich and the hunt by the Gestapo to track down the killers.

the-lady-movie-poster“The Lady” (2012)  – Feb. 17, 2017 – immediately follows KCET MUST SEE! Movies at 8 p.m. PT on KCET and 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV:  Luc Besson directs the political drama that tells the story of Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh) as she becomes the core of Burma’s democracy movement, and follows her relationship with her husband, writer Michael Aris (David Thewlis).

fire-over-england-movie-poster“Fire Over England” (1937)  – Feb. 24, 2017 – immediately follows KCET MUST SEE! Movies at 8 p.m. PT on KCET and 9 p.m. ET/PT on Link TV: During the reign of England’s Queen Elizabeth I, a young naval officer (Laurence Olivier) spies on the Spanish and discovers their plans to send the Armada against England. This wins him the love of the Queenís lady-in-waiting (Vivien Leigh) as he takes the British fleet into battle.

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