What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?

By Mark Peranson 

And now, a few thoughts on the occasion of attending the revitalized Marrakesh International Film Festival and the industry Atlas Workshops on African and Middle Eastern cinema that, you might be surprised to learn, was sponsored by none other than Netflix. Soon after arriving in Morocco I had the occasion to attend an unsurprisingly jam-packed conversation with Martin Scorsese, a regular visitor to Marrakesh. (This year he brought De Niro along, who had the luck to be interviewed onstage by Maïwenn, but alas I missed that one.) Most of Marty’s answers were predictable enough for anyone who has followed his career even tangentially (his discovery of Italian neorealism, Elia Kazan, religion, etc.), but things took a bit of an odd turn when he started ranting against the state of film criticism, with, as usual, the starting-off point being the annoying, hyperbolic snap reactions of that entity known as Film Twitter. (Never mind that his argument about the end of film criticism seemed to hinge on the fact that no one critic currently has the power of a Vincent Canby to destroy a Heaven’s Gate. Hell, that film critics don’t have the power to do stupid things anymore is fantastic.)

Exacerbated by the Cannes rescheduling of press screenings, Twitter has come to represent all that is wrong with film criticism in its entirety, for people of a certain generation—but these people are, frankly, living in the past. Conversely, one can say that for another interested subcommunity of the cinema world, the same is true about another bugaboo—and by that I mean Netflix, naturally. Of course, Scorsese didn’t have anything negative to say about Netflix, the studio that will end cinema distribution and production as we know it, because that same company just shelled out $140 million of its $8.3 billion in long-term debt to fund Scorsese’s upcoming The Irishman. I don’t need to say why Netflix has generally done its best to disrupt the way the business operates, but I believe I have also previously expressed the opinion that if they are giving money to filmmakers to realize visions, and if (maybe a big if) these films can be seen in cinemas, I don’t see the problem. (And if they keep funding industry programs in Africa, more power to them.)

Of course Netflix recently also made its big festival splash in Venice, winning the (likely fixed) Golden Lion with Roma, and is now poised to take home its first Best Picture Oscar (spoiler alert: it won’t). The latest entry in the illustrious recent genre of the Mexican cinema of the servant (see Reygadas and Pereda for examples, among others), Alfonso Cuarón’s universally praised film easily impresses in terms of its lavish accomplishment, but, for this humble viewer, also oppresses: content of the film aside, on an aesthetic level the sheer amount of detail Cuarón stuffs into his treasure trove of ’70s Mexico accrues to an infuriating extent. Clearly, this is not a film designed to be watched on Netflix, and there is something to be said for Cuarón’s cojones in taking the cash to do that—but as no films actually are designed to be watched on Netflix as far as I am aware, this line of argument only goes so far. (For an alternative view to mine, one that is far and away the majority opinion, see Robert Koehler’s review of Roma in the pages that follow; my Golden Lion, however, is Minervini.) But as it is the silly season and people seem to want lists, instead of a top ten of the year at this point (that unfortunate list will fall to the Cinema Scope editors for Issue 78), I instead present, off the top of my head, a Top Five Roma ranking (besides the top two, the rest are generally overrated):

1. AS Roma

2. Roma, Italia

3. Fellini’s Roma

4. Roma

5. (tie) Roma, DF; Tony Roma’s Place for Ribs; romaine lettuce

Follow

Friend me on FacebookFollow me on TwitterRSS Feed

From the Magazine

  • Cinema Scope 79 Table of Contents
    Cinema Scope 79 Table of Contents

    Cinema Scope Issue 79 with Features including .. Truth and Method: The Films of Thomas Heise by Michael Sicinski, Thinking in Images: Scott Walker and Cinema by Christoph Huber, 58th Venice Biennale, Cannes and DVD Reviews. More →

  • Issue 79 Editor’s Note
    Issue 79 Editor’s Note

    Excuse me if I come across as discombobulated, it’s not because of any movie I’ve watched recently. No, I’m talking about far more important things than cinema: this issue is in the process of being closed while deep in the throes of Raptors mania, to be precise, the incredible goings-on of Game 4. More →

  • The Good Fight: The Films of Julia Reichert
    The Good Fight: The Films of Julia Reichert

    By Robert Kotyk In the first scene of Julia Reichert’s first film, Growing Up Female (co-directed with Jim Klein, 1971), a woman takes the hand of More →

  • Jeanne (Bruno Dumont, France)
    Jeanne (Bruno Dumont, France)

    I’ve exited the last several Bruno Dumont films wondering—only somewhat in jest—whether or not their maker had gone completely insane. Until 2014, Dumont was notorious for his straight-faced, neo-Bressonian, severely severe dramas that interrogated the intersection of spiritualism and material form. More →

  • Exploded View | Flaubert Dreams of Travel But the Illness of His Mother Prevents It
    Exploded View | Flaubert Dreams of Travel But the Illness of His Mother Prevents It

    Undersung filmmaker Ken Kobland’s strange, sumptuous slice of classically minded surrealism, Flaubert Dreams of Travel But the Illness of His Mother Prevents It, created in 1986 in collaboration with The Wooster Group (America’s experimental-theatre ensemble extraordinaire) is, too, a creature born from Flaubert’s polymorphous bestiary. More →