Andrew Tracy

Gag Orders: The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Judas and the Black Messiah

By Andrew Tracy / April 5, 2021

Bobby Seale makes a cameo of sorts midway through Judas and the Black Messiah, as Martin Sheen’s porcine J. Edgar Hoover—checking in personally on the progress of the FBI’s campaign against Chicago Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya)—is shown an artist’s sketch of the BPP’s national chairman gagged and shackled in the courtroom during the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. This revolting spectacle understandably serves as the mid-film dramatic highpoint of The Trial of the Chicago 7, when the repeated, suitably indignant demands by Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) to serve as his own defense counsel in the absence of his hospitalized lawyer—and presiding judge Julius Hoffman’s (Frank Langella) incredible refusal to grant this right, instead directing that Seale’s defense should be undertaken by the representatives for the other defendants—ultimately lead to him being bodily removed from the courtroom by marshals and returned in chains. That image of a defiant Black man, forcibly silenced and immobilized in a hall of American justice, became one of William Burroughs’ “frozen moment[s] at the end of the newspaper fork,” when everyone—including those who would applaud it—can see what they’re being fed.

Read More

F for Fake: Mank

By Andrew Tracy / December 22, 2020

By Andrew Tracy “I am very happy to accept this award in the spirit in which the screenplay was written—which is to say, in the absence of Orson Welles,” snarks Gary Oldman’s Herman Mankiewicz in the recreated newsreel that caps off Mank, as he receives the Best Screenplay Oscar he acrimoniously shared with Welles for…

Read More

A Pierce of the Action: On Claudine and Uptight

By Andrew Tracy / September 22, 2020

By Andrew Tracy In his Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes identified two elements at work in the act of viewing photographs. On one level was what he labelled the studium, which he defines as a sympathetic interest on the part of the viewer, “a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, but without special acuity…To recognize the studium…

Read More

Silence (Martin Scorsese, US/Taiwan/Mexico)

By Andrew Tracy / March 24, 2017

By Andrew Tracy  Silence is Martin Scorsese’s best film in 20 years—since Kundun (1997), in fact, which also happens to be the last of his films to focus primarily on matters spiritual. In claiming this, I have no desire to put forth a return-to-form narrative to counter that of the Scorsese acolytes, for whom the…

Read More

Before the Swarm:  David Bordwell’s The Rhapsodes: How 1940s Critics Changed American Film Culture

By Andrew Tracy / June 27, 2016

  By Andrew Tracy A friend recently pigeonholed me after he witnessed an onstage film critics panel and demanded I make amends for wasting his time—not because I had in any way obliged him to attend, but simply because I was guilty by association. “What’s the point of critics talking about criticism?” he demanded, which…

Read More

Blackhat, White Noise: Michael Mann’s System of Objects

By Andrew Tracy / March 26, 2015

By Andrew Tracy There’s a line very early on in Jonathan Rayner’s recent monograph The Cinema of Michael Mann: Vice and Vindication that stands in marked contrast to the staid though commendably solid study that follows. Comparing Mann’s oeuvre to the framework of genre revisionism that characterized much of the ’70s “New Hollywood” American cinema,…

Read More

Vulgar Auteurism: The Case of Michael Mann

By Andrew Tracy / January 16, 2015

  From Cinema Scope #40 (Fall 2009) By Andrew Tracy Auteur bloat is one of the defining traits of latter-day cinephilia, with whole fleets of past and present studio craftsmen, from the competent to the questionable, being elevated high above their stations via tendentious interpretations of thematic consistency and a specious formalism that welcomes any…

Read More

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, France/US)

By Andrew Tracy / December 18, 2014

By Andrew Tracy “Ingmar Bergman once said that he makes a film with full consciousness that it will be shown on a screen that showed a Western the week before and will show a romance the week following, and that he likes this situation,” wrote the late Stanley Kauffmann in 1981, apropos of Spielberg’s nostalgia-plundering…

Read More

Beautiful Games: Matías Piñeiro on The Princess of France

By Andrew Tracy / September 2, 2014

By Andrew Tracy While the opening proper of Matías Piñeiro’s The Princess of France will (or at least deserves to) be one of the most celebrated sequences of any film this year, the voiceover prologue that precedes it is perhaps the more telling in terms of Piñeiro’s ongoing project: a call-in radio show host announces,…

Read More

Deaths of Cinema | The Long View: Stanley Kauffmann, 1916-2013

By Andrew Tracy / December 12, 2013

By Andrew Tracy In a long, lovely piece he wrote in tribute to (the still-living) John Gielgud in 1977, Stanley Kauffmann took issue with Brecht’s admonition in Galileo that “Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.” “Unknown is the land that needs no hero. Unknown is the interior land that needs no hero,” Kauffmann…

Read More

Temps mort: Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive

By Andrew Tracy / August 30, 2013

By Andrew Tracy “I’m sick of it—these zombies, what they’ve done to the world, their fear of their own imaginations,” laments the vampiric Adam (Tom Hiddleston) via videophone to his similarly succubal, Tangier-dwelling lady love Eve (Tilda Swinton) early in Only Lovers Left Alive. Zeitgeist be damned, nevertheless it’s fitting that the predominant pop-cultural ghouls…

Read More

Mud (Jeff Nichols, US)

By Andrew Tracy / June 26, 2013

By Andrew Tracy A ways back, in Cinema Scope’s saddle-stitched days, I speculated (à propos Eagle Pennell’s excellent The Whole Shootin’ Match [1978]) on the curious dynamic between regional and “national” (i.e., New York and Los Angeles) filmmaking in the US. The fact is that the majority of successful regional filmmakers do not remain regional…

Read More

Trash Humping: On “Vulgar Auteurism”

By Andrew Tracy / May 30, 2013

From “Vulgar Auteurism: The Case of Michael Mann” (Cinema Scope #40, Fall 2009): [Vulgar auteurism] is one of the defining traits of latter-day cinephilia, with whole fleets of past and present studio craftsmen, from the competent to the questionable, being elevated high above their stations via tendentious interpretations of thematic consistency and a specious formalism…

Read More

Passion (Brian De Palma, France/Germany)

By Andrew Tracy / March 20, 2013

By Andrew Tracy Allow for the possibility that perspective can trump prejudice, I suppose. Eight months after seeing Brian De Palma’s Passion and thinking it ludicrous (probably intentional) and dreadful (presumably not), I’ve since scaled it back to the former—though the fact that it isn’t dreadful does not ipso facto mean it’s any fucking good.…

Read More

Reboot, Rebirth, Repeat: Skyfall

By Andrew Tracy / November 10, 2012

By Andrew Tracy The problem with the Daniel Craig era of Bond is that it refuses to get started—or rather, is compelled to restart itself with each entry. The franchise overhaul of Casino Royale (2006) was an object lesson in how to pull off these “reboots” successfully, paying homage to the character’s legacy while pointing…

Read More

Après mai (Olivier Assayas, France)

By Andrew Tracy / September 11, 2012

As one is virtually a companion piece to the other, it is only natural to begin discussion of Après mai (Something in the Air) with Olivier Assayas’ 2002 memoir A Post-May Adolescence, just published in an elegant English translation by the Austrian Filmmuseum to accompany their new, Kent Jones-edited anthology on Assayas. Eloquent and thoughtful,…

Read More

Bong Joon-ho

By Andrew Tracy / April 4, 2012

By Andrew Tracy The overlap (or fusion) between genre and “art” cinema, and the language in which we discuss them, is one of the defining traits of contemporary cinephilia and criticism. Not that that’s anything new; as with most things in our endlessly reiterative culture, it’s an accentuation of long-established trends and traditions, novel only…

Read More

Shame (Steve McQueen, UK)

By Andrew Tracy / December 20, 2011

By Andrew Tracy At the midpoint of Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008), what had heretofore been a largely dialogue-free immersion into the sights, sounds, and smells of an Irish prison takes a pointed interlude for a veritable torrent of discourse. In a lengthy, unbroken two-shot followed by two shorter close-ups, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) and Father…

Read More

Currency | Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, US)

By Andrew Tracy / September 29, 2011

By Andrew Tracy If “indie-ness” conveys a certain generic intimation unto itself, some of the most celebrated recent independent films have also strategically adopted broader generic tactics, usually related to violence. As sensation, whether shockingly enacted or tautly withheld, has started to become an ever more important element for independents to attract the necessary attention,…

Read More

Of Gods and Men: Jack Cardiff and Cameraman

By Andrew Tracy / February 13, 2011

By Andrew Tracy It would be both needless and unfair to criticize Craig McCall’s new documentary Cameraman: The Life & Work of Jack Cardiff for its relative lack of cinematic imagination, no matter that it’s all the more ironic in light of its subject’s masterly command of the medium. Though the imperative of paying deserved…

Read More

The Turning of the Earth: True Grit

By Andrew Tracy / January 7, 2011

By Andrew Tracy There’s less Henry Hathaway than Robert Benton about Joel and Ethan Coen’s True Grit. Where Hathaway’s genial, serio-comic 1969 adaptation of the Charles Portis novel—about a headstrong, loquacious fourteen-year-old girl who hires a paunchy, drunken but ferocious U.S. marshal to hunt down her father’s killer—placed its lampooning/deification of John Wayne-as-Rooster Cogburn against…

Read More

Spotlight | Essential Killing (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland/Norway/Ireland/Hungary)

By Andrew Tracy / December 17, 2010

By Andrew Tracy One of the more interesting of the teapot tempests that erupted at Toronto this year was the slightly botched press screening of Jerzy Skolimowski’s Essential Killing, assigned to a noticeably low-capacity theatre that left several clamouring journalists shut out. What’s interesting is not the habitual logistical miscalculations familiar to any festival, but…

Read More

Spotlight | Oki’s Movie (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)

By Andrew Tracy / September 21, 2010

By Andrew Tracy Much of the best cinema today almost seems discontent with the idea of being only cinema—or “cinema” in the sense of an immersive narrative world contained within the durational boundaries of a single feature film. The distrust of classical narrative evidenced by many of the best contemporary filmmakers corresponds with their efforts…

Read More

Features | The Poetics of Departure: Kurosawa at 100

By Andrew Tracy / June 18, 2010

By Andrew Tracy Gauging an artist’s relevance is always a highly subjective affair, particularly as there are any number of ways in which such measurement can be made. The lure of the new—or rather, the previously undiscovered or underappreciated—has been a potent force in cinephilia over the last several years, yielding up scores of hosanna-ready…

Read More

Web Only | TIFF 2009: Autumn Leavings

By Andrew Tracy / December 23, 2009

By Andrew Tracy You may consult the issue proper (or issues past) for much of what actually matters in this season’s festival crop; see here some scraps from the Toronto table, richly appointed though they are. White Material. Though the reaction to Claire Denis’ latest has been decidedly mixed—with a quite understandable initial disappointment almost…

Read More

Spotlight | Lebanon (Samuel Maoz, Israel)

By Andrew Tracy / December 16, 2009

Whatever else it might be, the high-concept festival film is a wonderful labour-saving device for the harried critic, its provocatively sellable 25-words-or-less concept handily reducing criticism to bare surface description plus an appropriate adjective. “Gripping” was the mot en vogue for the appreciative critical ranks filing out of my screening of Lebanon, which took the…

Read More

DVD Bonus | Region Central: The Whole Shootin’ Match

By Andrew Tracy / September 12, 2009

By Andrew Tracy In an inadvertent but very real way, the term “regional filmmaking” denotes not only a diminutive mode of film practice in an economic sense, but in an aesthetic sense as well. Those very virtues for which these films are valued—a sense of place, of local, lived-in specificity, a freshness of detail, idiom,…

Read More

Spotlight | Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (Theo Angelopoulos, Greece)

By Andrew Tracy / September 8, 2009

By Andrew Tracy For filmmakers as for comedians, dying is easy—creating is hard. Those with the good sense to opt for a tragically early departure can gain much from the transaction. Not only does their work acquire a coherent narrative line and a tangible set of clichés for their immortalizers to endlessly dissect (think Pasolini,…

Read More

Features | Inside/Out: A Modest Proposal Concerning William A. Wellman

By Andrew Tracy / September 4, 2009

By Andrew Tracy It’s the rare critic these days who speaks of limits. Paul Schrader’s fusty musings in Film Comment or Quintín’s notion of “anorexic vs. bulimic cinema” (see Cinema Scope 22) are rather anomalous in calling for boundaries of artistic achievement, however conventionally in the former case and eccentrically in the latter. Meanwhile, Manny…

Read More

Features | Beyond Brut: The Art of Cornel Wilde

By Andrew Tracy / September 3, 2009

Andrew Tracy Celebrating the primal and primitive in cinema is a convenient fiction of criticism. To speak of a medium entirely premised on advanced technology as if it were an eruption from a bloodily liberated id—as if camera, crew, and equipment were merely the tactile extensions of the Neanderthal artist’s fingers smearing paint against the…

Read More

Interviews | Subverting the Moment: James Gray on We Own the Night

By Andrew Tracy / September 3, 2009

By Andrew Tracy   As with most critical shorthand, “classical” is a much-abused and little-examined term, an abdication of description but a positive boon for instant classification. It functions handily as both light praise and implicit condescension, the traditional scorn for the “well-made” narrative film incarnated in yet another of its protean modes. While general…

Read More

Web Only | TIFF 2007: Places of Rest

By Andrew Tracy / September 1, 2009

By Andrew Tracy While I don’t have the globetrotting experience to draw such a conclusion legitimately, I’ve no doubt that Toronto is little better than any other festival for creating a genuine dialogue about films viewed during, or even keeping a record straight in one’s own overstuffed head. Passing encounters in lobbies yield just enough…

Read More

Features | German Dreams: Some Thoughts on Fassbinder’s Berlin and Syberberg’s Hitler

By Andrew Tracy / September 1, 2009

By Andrew Tracy The monumental film so easily inspires prostration rather than investigation, though surely that is at least partly the intention of its maker. Issuing from within a matrix of production geared towards certain regulations of duration, content, and legitimate claims on audience attention, the monumental film explodes that packaging to present itself in…

Read More

Features | Out of Time: Notes on Marker

By Andrew Tracy / September 1, 2009

By Andrew Tracy An oeuvre made up of fragments naturally spawns fragmentation in its wake, but the erratic and haphazard appearance of Chris Marker’s films on DVD is less a distortion of his work than a peculiarly apt form of presentation. The least proprietary of filmmakers, Marker nevertheless seems immune to misrepresentation. Regardless of his…

Read More

Currency | Synecdoche, New York

By Andrew Tracy / August 29, 2009

Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, USA) By Andrew Tracy For those who haven’t yet read the latest issue of the online magazine Rouge, proceed there to witness Kent Jones, in his article “Can Movies Think?”, knocking out another support beam from the already rickety edifice of critical self-justification. Jones’ brief, pinpoint-accurate dissection of the “moral-aesthetic…

Read More

Currency | The Limits of Control

By Andrew Tracy / August 28, 2009

The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, Spain/US/Japan) By Andrew Tracy The title’s wholly disingenuous, of course. The Limits of Control is not only rigorously ordered from moment one, it’s also positively overflowing with theoretical pleasures for the self-identifying cinephile. A shame then that those pleasures remain almost exclusively in the realm of theory. Strange that…

Read More