*The Land of the Unknown: Roberto Minervini on What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? By Jordan Cronk. “Poetry floats up in my memory like sailboats in the fog”:Alexei German’s Khrustalyov, My Car! By Daniel Witkin. With Forever Presence: Jonathan Schwartz (1973-2018). By Max Goldberg. *Soft and Hard: Claire Denis on High Life. By Adam Nayman.
By Mark Peranson
It’s true that the bulk of the films that are covered in any particular issue of this magazine first show publically at film festivals, and, in many cases, only show at festivals. Thus, once again in this last issue of the year, we present a small selection of reviews from films that recently debuted on the circuit. But I would be remiss not to note that the so-called “premiere festivals” like Toronto make up but a tiny slice of the festival pie. I know I’m lucky that my job allows me to attend many such events: I write this having recently travelled to festivals in Vienna, Gijon and Singapore, where I was struck by the obvious realization that festivals are about more than the films—and I’m not just talking about the food. (On that note, to opine on the latest major festival gossip, certainly it would make the most sense, all things considered, for a celebrity chef to run the next Berlinale.)
As this magazine is generally concerned with the films themselves and, for the most part, not about the context in which they are shown (Cannes being the obvious exclusion), sometimes we forget that most film festivals are local events, and thus serve specific communities. It’s hard to really capture this in that genre of text known as the “festival report,” because to understand what most festivals are doing you really need to be there, and be part of the community in which it takes place—which might be why you’re less likely to read festival reports here. So let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize, and to highlight the stellar work that all of these festival organizers are doing; just because they don’t host world premieres doesn’t make them any less valuable.
Now a few words on my least favourite subject. You’ll have to wait for the next issue for the much-anticipated Cinema Scope Top Ten, but just so I can avoid commenting on it later, I’m sure that the tour de force Twin Peaks: The Return will be our choice for one of the top ten “films” of the year, because it’s heads above anything else shown in festivals, in release or otherwise, and it premiered directly to all participants in the global community. (I’m making it eligible for “year-end consideration,” and I’m quite sure that I’ll be on the right side of history.) I don’t feel the need to list the historical examples of films “made for television” that are now essentially canonized, and by the time this is printed this useless debate will probably have subsided. (In fact, if I saw any personal value in top-ten lists, I would be tempted to list ten Peaks episodes separately, or maybe divide the chosen ones equally between David Lynch, Hong Sangsoo, and Heinz Emigholz.)
But what exactly are the gatekeepers worried about? Having to watch more TV? Speaking as someone who unfortunately watches the bulk of his movies on his computer screen, I don’t give a shit if something is “made to be seen” in a cinema or not—this is 2017, not 1957. The point is to keep all options open: so, it’s great that Dunkirk can still be shot and exhibited on film, and it’s great that someone gave Lynch money and freedom to create 18 goddamned hours of awesomeness. Look at it another way: more than 75 percent of films released in cinemas that are made for public exhibition are garbage and in no way cinematic, and likewise, most television product is mindless dreck. (Though I’ll defend Mindhunter, Nathan for You, naturally, The Leftovers, and I could go on…Frankly, I’d be more enthusiastic compiling a list of TV shows rather than films released in theatres.) If you don’t want to call it “cinema” or “film,” that’s fine too—go ahead and make up another word. (Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.) But I’m OK with calling everything cinema, thank you very much, even if it’s a word which means everything and nothing at the same time.