Blake Williams

TIFF 2021 | The Girl and the Spider (Ramon & Silvan Zürcher, Switzerland)

By Blake Williams / September 9, 2021

By Blake Williams Published in Cinema Scope #87 (Summer 2021) I will never know how you see red, and you will never know how I see it; but this separation of consciousnesses is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is to believe in an undivided being between us.—Maurice Merleau-Ponty Near…

Read More

The Primacy of Perception: Ramon & Silvan Zürcher on The Girl and the Spider

By Blake Williams / April 5, 2021

Near the midpoint of The Girl and the Spider—Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s overdue, much anticipated follow-up to their masterful debut feature, The Strange Little Cat (2013)—a character launches into another of the Zürcher brothers’ distinctive anecdotal monologues. Mara (Henriette Confurius), who is as close as this film gets to a protagonist, describes for her neighbour, Kerstin (Dagna Litzenberger-Vinet), an incident that occurred the previous day between herself and her newly ex-roommate (and perhaps ex-girlfriend) Lisa (Liliane Amuat). “I was in my room while Lisa was on the toilet,” she recounts. “She asked me to bring her a roll of toilet paper. Instead of giving it to her, I walked past the door from left to right, from Lisa’s point of view.” The image cuts to the scene while she recalls it, privileging us with a more objective account of the incident: a fixed shot showing Mara stand up from her desk, grab a package of toilet paper, and march past the door, her arms outstretched like a zombie.

Read More

Jeanne (Bruno Dumont, France)

By Blake Williams / June 27, 2019

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.

Read More

Our Time (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Germany/Denmark/Sweden)

By Blake Williams / January 2, 2019

By Blake Williams  For whatever thematic heavy-handedness or structural deficiencies Carlos Reygadas’ films may consistently and inevitably fall victim to, the man sure knows how to open a movie. Information, images, forms arrive from somewhere as something undefined—stars shining from who knows how far away; a small child lost in a field as day loses…

Read More

Mass Ornaments: Jodie Mack on The Grand Bizarre

By Blake Williams / September 28, 2018

By Blake Williams “For the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home.”—“The Painter of Modern Life,”…

Read More

The Grand Bizarre (Jodie Mack, US) — Wavelengths

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2018

By Blake Williams Published in Cinema Scope 76 (Fall 2018)   “For the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel…

Read More

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (Bi Gan, China/France) — Wavelengths

By Blake Williams / September 1, 2018

By Blake Williams Published in Cinema Scope 75 (Summer 2018)   “If the cinema isn’t made to express dreams or everything that in waking life has something in common with dreams, then it has no point.”—Antonin Artaud, “Sorcellerie et cinéma” (ca. 1928) Cinema, however realist it may ever strive to be, is synonymous with dreaming.…

Read More

Apt Pupil: Bi Gan on Long Day’s Journey Into Night

By Blake Williams / July 1, 2018

By Blake Williams “If the cinema isn’t made to express dreams or everything that in waking life has something in common with dreams, then it has no point.”—Antonin Artaud, “Sorcellerie et cinéma” (ca. 1928) Cinema, however realist it may ever strive to be, is synonymous with dreaming. Fundamentally past-tense, after the fact; industrially and institutionally…

Read More

Madame Hyde (Serge Bozon, France/Belgium)

By Blake Williams / December 19, 2017

By Blake Williams “It’s a cry echoed by a thousand sentinels An order relayed by a thousand heralds A beacon flaring up a thousand citadels A call to hunters lost in the great woods…” — Charles Baudelaire, “Les Phares” (1857)   “A woman of fire makes no sense.” — Madame Hyde (Isabelle Huppert)   In…

Read More

Those You Call Mutants: The Films of Lucrecia Martel

By Blake Williams / September 28, 2017

By Blake Williams “[Cinemas of the senses] generate worlds of mutating sounds and images that often ebb and flow between the figurative and the abstract, and where the human form, at least as a unified entity, easily loses its function as the main point of reference. One way or another, the cinema of sensation is…

Read More

Radiance (Naomi Kawase, Japan/France) — Special Presentations

By Blake Williams / September 7, 2017

By Blake Williams This past weekend the international film community was rocked by the news that Juliette Binoche is set to star in Cannes darling Naomi Kawase’s next film, a Japan-set movie that will reportedly be called Vision. Aside from reporting the casting coup, this news is surprising because it suggests that Kawase, who is now…

Read More

Zama (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/Brazil/Spain/ France/Netherlands/Mexico/ Portugal/USA) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2017

By Blake Williams Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) “[Cinemas of the senses] generate worlds of mutating sounds and images that often ebb and   flow between the figurative and the abstract, and where the human form, at least as a unified entity, easily loses its function as the main point of reference. One way…

Read More

24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran)

By Blake Williams / June 22, 2017

By Blake Williams The first segment of Abbas Kiarostami’s final, posthumously completed video piece, 24 Frames, is a simple rendering of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1565 painting The Hunters in the Snow. Staring, for a Cageian four-and-a-half minutes, at the familiar wintery scene—its composition exemplary of the Dutch master’s decentred, multitiered narrative designs—we witness Kiarostami’s…

Read More

Film/Art | Indeed, We Know: On the Video Art of Elizabeth Price

By Blake Williams / March 24, 2017

By Blake Williams  “All the things she does, written in her diary But when the day is done, she cannot tell the truth” — Talulah Gosh, in “Talulah Gosh” In the pages leading up to Roland Barthes’ generous, accurate, and still vital conception of our relationship to photographic images in Camera Lucida, he devotes a…

Read More

Something, Everything: Manuela De Laborde on AS WITHOUT SO WITHIN

By Blake Williams / December 19, 2016

By Blake Williams First a title card, clean and neat; the film’s four-word name split and divided between the upper- and lower-centre regions of a large, red rectangle, itself surrounded by a thick black border. Cut to darkness. Mammoth blue grains of emulsion wriggling through near-black crevasses beside veins of softer blues and the occasional…

Read More

Sweet Dreams (Marco Bellocchio, Italy) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 12, 2016

By Blake Williams Pressed so far beyond his trademark disdain for the patriarchal legacy that Catholicism has left (and continues to assert) over modern-day Italian life and culture, master filmmaker Marco Bellocchio here follows up his sublime and mysterious Blood of My Blood (2015) with a handsome and shamelessly cloying picture that represents the most logical culmination…

Read More

The Death of Louis XIV (Albert Serra, France/Spain/Portugal) — Wavelengths

By Blake Williams / September 8, 2016

From Cinema Scope #67 (Summer 2016) By Blake Williams With birds singing above, a 71-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud sits dressed as the 76-year-old Sun King, pale and powdered under his big wig, nobly stationed amid a twilit rose garden in his wheelchair, finally bidding to his two eager valets: “Onward.” Thus begins Albert Serra’s fifth and…

Read More

A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, UK/US) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 8, 2016

By Blake Williams Some have called Terence Davies’ second (and better) film to be unveiled in the last 12 months the best Whit Stillman film of the year—the gleeful indulgence in the sound of the English language matches and arguably surpassed that on display in Stillman’s Love & Friendship—while others have proclaimed it the best Dreyer…

Read More

Graduation (Christian Mungiu, Romania) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 7, 2016

By Blake Williams The only thing more preordained than the direction, narrative structure, rhythm, colour palette, and general sense of morality on display in Cristian Mungiu’s latest film is that you are going to see it—because it is an Important Work of World Cinema from the man who is still the only Palme d’Or-winning director…

Read More

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, France) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 6, 2016

By Blake Williams Upon its premiere in Cannes last May, Olivier Assayas’ Personal Shopper quickly became defined by its centerpiece SMS marathon, in which Maureen (Kristen Stewart) engages in a days-long texting back-and-forth with what might be her dead twin brother’s ghost (all while travelling from Paris to London and back), and the scene is indeed probably…

Read More

Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, France/Germany/Belgium)

By Blake Williams / September 6, 2016

By Blake Williams To waste no time: Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama has nothing to say about either Nick Cave or the Bad Seeds, and, more crucially, is not a film about terrorism. Perhaps a strange assertion, the latter, given that the movie spends all 130 of its sublime, stomach-churning minutes in the company of a crew…

Read More

Ma’ Rosa (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2016

By Blake Williams Brillante Mendoza—always less than brilliant—has clearly made it his mandate to project the ugliness of modern Manileño life by making films that embody said ugliness, which invariably results in films that are a) ugly, and b) predetermined, single-minded, and boring. (Others prefer to call it ‘neorealist’, because everything sounds prettier as an…

Read More

Saying Something: The Films of Angela Schanelec

By Blake Williams / September 3, 2016

By Blake Williams “The everyday is platitude (what lags and falls back, the residual life with which our trash cans and cemeteries are filled: scrap and refuse); but this banality is also what is most important. It brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived—in the moment when, lived,…

Read More

Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, US) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 2, 2016

By Blake Williams Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women was the best film I saw this year in Park City, and is sure to wind up on my shortlist of the year’s truly beautiful things. Reichardt has tended to train her attention on subjects trying, and inevitably failing, to navigate the world outside of the established order.…

Read More

La mort de Louis XIV (Albert Serra, France/Spain/Portugal)

By Blake Williams / June 27, 2016

By Blake Williams With birds singing above, a 71-year-old Jean-Pierre Léaud sits dressed as the 76-year-old Sun King, pale and powdered under his big wig, nobly stationed amid a twilit rose garden in his wheelchair, finally bidding to his two eager valets: “Onward.” Thus begins Albert Serra’s fifth and most classically beautiful feature, La mort…

Read More

Sundance 2016: Good Grief!

By Blake Williams / March 21, 2016

By Blake Williams Two heavily pulled quotes from Sundance 2016’s opening press conference, both spilled from the mouth of the festival’s founder and director Robert Redford—“I’m not into the Oscars,” and later, when asked what he was most looking forward to at this year’s edition, “The wrap party”—were endearingly and unexpectedly clear-eyed enough (considering the…

Read More

Blood of My Blood (Marco Bellocchio, Italy)

By Blake Williams / December 21, 2015

By Blake Williams Back in 2006, Marco Bellocchio sent the Rome Film Festival a project called Sorelle, a curious 68-minute whatsit he shot over a six-year period with a MiniDV camcorder. He made it in collaboration with several film-school students in Bobbio (Bellocchio’s hometown), but, with a cast that includes his son (Pier Giorgio), daughter…

Read More

Archive Fever: The Films of Pietro Marcello

By Blake Williams / September 22, 2015

By Blake Williams As is true for many of the more interesting Italian filmmakers currently working outside of the country’s “thriving,” increasingly globalized film industry, Pietro Marcello’s films liberally fuse a range of vérité and metaphysical elements to contemplate the evanescence of pre-modernized and rural culture. Introspective, class-conscious, and sensitive to (art) history, Marcello can…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Disorder (Alice Winocour, France/Belgium)—Gala Presentations

By Blake Williams / September 14, 2015

By Blake Williams Alice Winocour’s Disorder—that’s of the post-traumatic stress variety, no pigs unleashed on congested Guangzhou highways here—occupies a point on the line one could conceivably trace between Claire Denis’ cryptic, visceral genre pictures and Kathryn Bigelow’s post-“Shock and Awe” work. Which is to say, stylistically speaking, this has nowhere near the same DNA…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Blake Williams / September 8, 2015

By Blake Williams Ciro Guerra, taking after Werner Herzog, understands the influential power of research narratives when it comes to representing a nation’s colonialist past—especially with regards to meticulous details. Why else would the chief selling points in the loglines of his last two features boast of these productions’ pedantic commitments to, e.g., a surplus…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Love (Gaspar Noé, France)—Vanguard

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2015

By Blake Williams Originally published in Cinema Scope 63 (Summer 2015). It’s been both amusing and disheartening to watch fellow critics lash out against Argentine-born “French extremist” Gaspar Noé’s new movie, a 3D porno un-ironically titled Love, for failing to achieve such “good movie” goals as “acting excellence,” “believable chemistry,” or “naturalistic dialogue.” Admittedly, Love’s…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | Cinema Scope 64 Preview | Lost and Beautiful (Pietro Marcello, Italy)—Wavelengths

By Blake Williams / September 2, 2015

Archive Fever: The Films of Pietro Marcello By Blake Williams Originally published in Cinema Scope 64 (Fall 2015). As is true for many of the more interesting Italian filmmakers currently working outside of the country’s “thriving,” increasingly globalized film industry, Pietro Marcello’s films liberally fuse a range of vérité and metaphysical elements to contemplate the…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | The Witch (Robert Eggers, US/Canada)—Special Presentations

By Blake Williams / September 1, 2015

By Blake Williams Robert Eggers’ debut feature The Witch—one of the big talking points to emerge from this year’s Sundance US Dramatic Competition—is a mythopoeic horror film that uses a wealth of unidentified 17th-century journals, records, and myths to construct a slow-burning descent into hysteria. Eggers opts for a cool, autumnal mise en scène (you…

Read More

TIFF 2015 | James White (Josh Mond, US)—Discovery

By Blake Williams / September 1, 2015

By Blake Williams On paper, Josh Mond’s personal and almost unbearably sad debut James White seems to exhibit the same tendencies that have become the signature brand of his Borderline colleagues, whose intelligent and precocious output has been driven by a depraved depiction of human nature with a grim sensibility that already feels out of…

Read More

Sundance 2015: Results from the Frontier

By Blake Williams / March 26, 2015

  By Blake Williams Sundance regulars were generally in agreement that this was a solid year, but not as good as the last. This was my first venture to Park City, but having caught up with nearly all of 2014’s greatest hits, I have to dutifully disagree. In fact, against all odds, with over a…

Read More

Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)

By Blake Williams / December 18, 2014

By Blake Williams First we see the ocean—again. Before introducing us to the hazy, neon-stroked nocturne with which Pynchon chose to open his “lite” novel, Inherent Vice—wherein Shasta materializes from a back alley to offer a fateful proposition to ex-boyfriend Larry “Doc” Sportello—Paul Thomas Anderson presents a blip of a prologue to begin his adaptation.…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Red Army (Gabe Polsky, US) — TIFF Docs

By Blake Williams / September 5, 2014

By Blake Williams American director Gabe Polsky’s timing really couldn’t have been worse. Arriving in Cannes only three months after the Berlin debut of Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game—which delivered a radically minimal yet effective variation on the politically-minded sports documentary as Porumboiu has his father, a former soccer referee, provide commentary over the entire broadcast…

Read More

Going for Baroque: The Films of Eugène Green

By Blake Williams / September 5, 2014

By Blake Williams To get it out of the way at the outset: Eugène Green, now 67 years of age, began making films when he was 53, all of them built around and deeply concerned with a set of traditions belonging to the arts of the Baroque period, particularly its theatre. His body of work…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Alleluia (Fabrice Du Welz, France) — Vanguard

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2014

By Blake Williams One wonders: did the world really need what is at least the fourth film treatment of the Lonely Hearts Killers case, after Todd Robinson’s utterly useless 2006 (Lonely Hearts), Leonard Kastle’s influential vérité shit-show The Honeymoon Killers (1969) and Arturo Ripstein’s rather mannered Mexican melodrama Deep Crimson (1996)? The source material—an unhinged yet commanding woman…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | The Search (Michel Hazanavicius, France) — Special Presentations

By Blake Williams / September 3, 2014

By Blake Williams The Search is what happens when winning awards supersedes making cinema. It’s what happens when pastiche is mistaken for art; when Bérénice Bejo and Annette Benning have Best Actress prizes on their résumés; when the context informing a movie is only other movies. It’s the kind of war picture you get when your…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 2, 2014

By Blake Williams The dumbest thing about Andrey Zvyagintsev’s new snoozer, Leviathan, is his commitment to that title. Either he’s completely oblivious to the goings-on in world cinema since his last film, the rather great Elena (2011), was released, or he actually thought his effort would stand up well against Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s homonymous, soul-destroying…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Adieu au langage (Jean-Luc Godard, France) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 2, 2014

By Blake Williams From Cinema Scope #59 The first on-screen text in Toutes les histoires (1988), the first chapter of Histoire(s) du cinéma, reads (as translated), “May each eye negotiate for itself.” Presented while Godard pronounces another maxim (“Don’t show every side of things; allow yourself a margin for the indefinite”), this text effectively prepares…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Run (Philippe Lacôte, France/Ivory Coast) — Discovery

By Blake Williams / September 1, 2014

By Blake Williams The only overtly political film in this year’s Un Certain Regard section in Cannes came from Ivorian filmmaker Philippe Lacôte in the form of his fiction debut, Run. Unfortunate Forrest Gump (1994) resemblance aside (“Ever since I was young, people would call me Run,” spoken in voiceover by the film’s protagonist over the image of…

Read More

TIFF 2014 | Wild Tales (Damián Szifron, Argentina/Spain) — Special Presentations

By Blake Williams / August 31, 2014

By Blake Williams It’s a sad sign of the state of Pedro Almodóvar’s career when one is more intrigued by the projects listing his name in their production credits than the ones he himself directed. This has as much to do with the rise of frequent collaborator Lucrecia Martel into one of world cinema’s juggernauts…

Read More

Cannes 2014 | Adieu au langage (Jean-Luc Godard, France)

By Blake Williams / June 25, 2014

By Blake Williams. The first on-screen text in Toutes les histoires (1988), the first chapter of Histoire(s) du cinéma, reads (as translated), “May each eye negotiate for itself.” Presented while Godard pronounces another maxim (“Don’t show every side of things; allow yourself a margin for the indefinite”), this text effectively prepares us for the spectatorial…

Read More

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, UK)

By Blake Williams / March 20, 2014

By Blake Williams In their attempt to adapt of one of those ornery “unfilmable” novels to the big screen, Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze transformed Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief into a meta-satire on film adaptations called, appropriately, Adaptation (2002). Following a short prologue in which Kaufman (played by Nicolas Cage) is shown being shooed…

Read More

La jalousie (Philippe Garrel, France)

By Blake Williams / December 13, 2013

By Blake Williams At one point in Philippe Garrel’s La jalousie, eight-year-old Charlotte (Olga Milshtein) asks Claudia (Anna Mouglalis), the new girlfriend of her father Louis, whom she thinks her father loves more. Claudia’s answer: “His father.” In one sense, of course, this reply is an evasion of the question Charlotte was actually asking—i.e., “Does…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | Gabrielle (Louise Archambault, Canada)—Special Presentation

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2013

By Blake Williams To anyone who thought it wasn’t possible for there to be a film about the mentally disabled that is as problematic as I Am Sam, has Québécois filmmaker Louise Archambault got a treat for you. In Gabrielle, actress Gabrielle Marion-Rivard stars in the title role, and suffers from the same disorder (Williams syndrome) as…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | The Art of the Steal (Jonathan Sobol, Canada)—Gala Presentation

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2013

By Blake Williams It didn’t take much post-viewing research to uncover what Jonathan Sobol’s thing is, i.e., why the hell TIFF programmers find him programmable (I would name names, but The Art of the Steal’s blurb in the programme guide has been strategically left uncredited): alas, he was born in Niagara Falls. At the very least…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | Gerontophilia (Bruce LaBruce, Canada)—Vanguard

By Blake Williams / September 3, 2013

By Blake Williams Who could have predicted that in making a film about an ostensibly straight, 18-year-old pretty-boy nurse who gets his rocks off with his octogenarian patients (complete with full-frontal shots of the latter) Bruce LaBruce would produce something that critics could reprimand for being limp? More Gus Van Sant than Jack Smith, so…

Read More

TIFF 2013 | Burning Bush (Agnieszka Holland, Czech Republic)—Special Presentation

By Blake Williams / August 31, 2013

By Blake Williams There’s likely to be some bitching about the increasingly popular phenomenon of television getting screened at film festivals in the Southcliffe review, so I’ll try to be brief in that regard. But it must be stated that Burning Bush, which currently doesn’t even have director Agnieszka Holland’s name listed in the main details of…

Read More

Master Shots: Tsai Ming-liang’s Late Digital Period

By Blake Williams / August 30, 2013

By Blake Williams The title of Tsai Ming-liang’s tenth feature Stray Dogs bears a fairly conspicuous resemblance to a key metaphor from Laozi’s 6th-century Chinese philosophical text Tao Te Ching, which allegorizes man’s relationship with the heavens as that of a straw dog and the one who created it. Literally a dog-shaped figure made out…

Read More

Cannes 2013 | Histoire(s) de profondeur: 3x3D

By Blake Williams / June 24, 2013

By Blake Williams First, bless Charles Tesson for having the balls to acknowledge that experimental cinema exists, no matter that its manifestations at Cannes are still ghettoized to a damp auditorium in the gaudy Miramar hotel, located somewhere around the halfway point to Antibes. The fact that Tesson has spent his two years as artistic…

Read More

You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (Alain Resnais, France)

By Blake Williams / March 21, 2013

By Blake Williams That Alain Resnais would endow his follow-up to his neurologically scrambled masterpiece Les herbes folles (2009) with the title You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet seems like a goad to premature eulogists. As Resnais would be turning 90 a fortnight after the film’s Cannes premiere last year, many journalists in attendance presumptuously deemed…

Read More

Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, US)

By Blake Williams / December 16, 2012

By Blake Williams Only three years later, Harmony Korine has essentially remade Trash Humpers. In so doing, he has also made a few changes, replacing the cretinous geezers, low-grade VHS presentation, and cacophonous sound mix with heavenly creatures, high-def radiance and candy-pop shellac. If that sounds like an altogether distinct and wholly unrelated film, it’s…

Read More