Christoph Huber

Endless Night: “Dark Glasses” and the Remnants of Dario Argento’s Mad Poetry of Terror

By Christoph Huber / June 21, 2022

Everybody is staring into the sky, wearing special glasses or holding up black strips to protect their eyes. She stops at a park, joining a small group of people, putting on her sunglasses. Dogs bark as the light dims—they are awaiting a solar eclipse. “Not just dogs, every animal is afraid,” a man explains to his kid. “Even our ancestors, a long time ago, feared the eclipse.” His wife adds, “They thought the disappearance of the sun meant the end of the world.”

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Higher Power: Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta and the Legacy of Nunsploitation

By Christoph Huber / January 4, 2022

The pear of anguish is a medieval torture instrument, whose spoon-like metal segments spread at the turn of a screw in its centre. Also known as the “choke pear” because it was often applied to the victim’s mouth, it could be inserted into any orifice.

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Next Stop Eternity: Peter Tscherkassky’s Train Again and the Love Story of Railroads and Film

By Christoph Huber / September 20, 2021

Peter Tscherkassky’s 20-minute film Train Again unearths some new materialist marvels while expanding on those typically Tscherkasskian sensations the Austrian filmmaker achieves through the technique of contact printing, in which found footage is copied by hand, frame by frame, onto unexposed film stock.

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TIFF 2021 | Train Again (Peter Tscherkassky, Austria)

By Christoph Huber / September 10, 2021

By Christoph Huber Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) I Peter Tscherkassky’s 20-minute film Train Again unearths some new materialist marvels while expanding on those typically Tscherkasskian sensations the Austrian filmmaker achieves through the technique of contact printing, in which found footage is copied by hand, frame by frame, onto unexposed film stock. His…

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Common Sense Connoisseur: The Critical Legacy of Bertrand Tavernier

By Christoph Huber / June 15, 2021

The two most cherished film books in the pile on my bedside table are in a language my command of which is rudimentary at best. But since both Jacques Lourcelles’ Dictionnaire du Cinéma – Les Films as well as Jean-Pierre Coursodon and Bertrand Tavernier’s 50 ans de cinéma américain have never been translated from French into either English or German, I gladly make do, filling the gaps with a mixture of autodidactic guesswork and occasional dictionary consultation, which for all its drawbacks has proved to be a viable method.

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Thinking in Images: Scott Walker and Cinema

By Christoph Huber / June 21, 2019

“I am forever indebted to cinema,” wrote singer-songwriter Scott Walker in 2007. “It’s always been there for me in all manner of ways. I would not have lived my life here in Europe without it. Now and then I’ve found myself wandering in dark towns or cities rather like those depicted by Kaurismäki. Have turned a corner and there was salvation looming before me in the form of a movie house.

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The Man from Left Field: Burt Reynolds, Neglected Filmmaker

By Christoph Huber / December 21, 2018

By Christoph Huber  “I should have been born a hundred years earlier when not having a style was a style.”—Burt Reynolds in Gator (1976) The passing of Burt Reynolds this September at age 82 from cardiac arrest drew a lot of attention, but once again relegated to a footnote what I consider his most remarkable…

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Whatever Happened to Lizzie Borden?

By Christoph Huber / March 16, 2018

By Christoph Huber “This fight will not end in terrorism and violence. It will not end in a nuclear holocaust. It begins in the celebration of the rites of alchemy. The transformation of shit into gold. The illumination of dark chaotic night into light. This is the time of sweet, sweet change for us all.”…

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Giving Credibility to the Universe: Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani on Laissez bronzer les cadavres

By Christoph Huber / December 15, 2017

By Christoph Huber “The .22 bullet tore a tiny hole into the canvas. The detonation was marginally louder than the crack of a whip. In the valley a crow protested. Luce emitted a short, husky laugh quite similar to the sound of the crow.” Thus begins Laissez bronzer les cadavres!, the first novel by Jean-Patrick…

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Orchestrating the Apocalypse: The Survival Horror of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evils

By Christoph Huber / March 20, 2017

“This is a product of the Umbrella Corporation. Our business is life itself. Some side effects may occur.” —commercial announcement lead-in to the end credits of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

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Weapon of Flesh: Shiota Akihiko’s Wet Woman in the Wind and the Return of Roman Porno

By Christoph Huber / September 26, 2016

By Christoph Huber It could have been another quiet day in the country, but it wasn’t meant to be: Shiota Akihiko’s Wet Woman in the Wind starts with an idyllic shot of a forest glade dappled with sunlight, the only hint at the absurd convolutions to come being a chair positioned incongruously at the edge…

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Safari (Ulrich Seidl, Austria) — Masters

By Christoph Huber / September 4, 2016

By Christoph Huber No film in the history of cinema has showcased the folding of dead animals as diligently as Ulrich Seidl’s Safari, in which the audience can witness the mind-boggling sights of a (presumably) killed giraffe—its gigantic, twisted, fragmented-looking body more surreal than any art installation, yet seemingly a “perfectly natural” image within the…

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Betting on Half-Time: The 62nd International Short Film Festival Oberhausen

By Christoph Huber / May 27, 2016

By Christoph Huber Standing in Oberhausen’s Rathausgrill—an authentic local fast food place that epitomizes the city’s dilapidated, um, charm—for a last currywurst mit pommes before catching my plane out midway through the 62nd edition of the Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen, I use the short waiting time to reflect on the three hectic days preceding it: although I…

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Last Action Hero: Jason Statham Plays It Straight

By Christoph Huber / March 21, 2016

By Christoph Huber “Jason makes everything better.”—Paul Feig, quoted in Esquire’s 2015 Statham cover story It’s difficult to think that we should be grateful to Guy Ritchie for anything, but I guess he deserves credit for casting Jason Statham in his debut, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). Statham has since gone on to…

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Bleurghing the Unspeakable: A Stroll Through Andrzej Zulawski’s Cosmos

By Christoph Huber / February 17, 2016

By Christoph Huber “I smiled in the moonlight at the docile thought of the mind’s helplessness in the face of overwhelming, confounding, entangling reality…No combination is impossible…Any combination is possible…” —Witold Gombrowicz, Cosmos   “The bird can’t hang itself.” Now that’s a thing we all can agree on, can’t we? Surely that little sparrow, inexplicably…

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Mother of All of Us: Ida Lupino, The Filmaker

By Christoph Huber / December 21, 2015

By Christoph Huber “I see myself, in the years ahead, directing or producing or both. I see myself developing new talent, which would be furiously interesting for me. For I love talent. Love to watch it. Love to help it. Am more genuinely interested in the talent of others than I am in my own.”…

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Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, Australia/US)

By Christoph Huber / June 22, 2015

By Christoph Huber “Who’d have thought 20 years ago that people would one day be nostalgic for the apocalypse?” Australian director-writer-producer George Miller mused before the release of the fourth installment of his most famous creation, which barrelled into theatres under the name Mad Max: Fury Road, showing out of competition in Cannes at the same time…

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TIFF 2014 | Goodnight Mommy (Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala, Austria) — Vanguard

By Christoph Huber / September 7, 2014

  By Christoph Huber Don’t be fooled by the inane Haneke comparisons lavished by lazy critics on the first fiction feature by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, who previously made the beautiful portrait-essay Kern and the underseen drinking-game short Dreh und Trink (full disclosure: they are also my best friends, but that’s not why I…

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Deaths of Cinema | The World in His Arms: Michael Glawogger, 1959-2014

By Christoph Huber / June 25, 2014

By Christoph Huber “The theatre is not a classroom, so there is nothing to learn. But there is a lot to see,” Michael Glawogger quipped at the Flaherty seminar in 2010—just one of many choice aphorisms given (not just) on that occasion, demonstrating several of the unique gifts of this one-of-a-kind Austrian director. He not…

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The Great Depression: Jerry Lewis’ Last Movies

By Christoph Huber / December 12, 2013

By Christoph Huber One of the highlights of the year was the great (35mm!) Jerry Lewis retrospective presented by the Viennale and the Austrian Film Museum, which confirmed him as one of modern cinema’s key auteurs. Still, there remains the great divide. By this I do not mean obvious, yet excruciatingly opaque distinctions (Jerry the…

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TIFF 2013 | The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh, Cambodia/France)

By Christoph Huber / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Christoph Huber The eventual Un Certain Regard prizewinner, Panh’s The Missing Picture parts with the formal orthodoxy of his previous films on the subject like S-21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine (2003) or Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (2011), for the first time using both found…

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Cannes 2013 | Genocide Party Day: Death March, The Missing Picture, The Last of the Unjust

By Christoph Huber / June 24, 2013

By Christoph Huber Daily reporters at film festivals dread few demands from otherwise uninterested editors as much as “the festival’s overarching theme”: along with weather reports, these requests crop up with dispiriting regularity. As if a limited selection of movies (circumscribed by all kinds of necessities and strategic manoeuvers, at times more than artistic merit,…

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World Out of Order: Tony Scott’s Vertigo

By Cinema Scope / August 20, 2012

By Christoph Huber and Mark Peranson Regularly dismissed by critics as an ADD action hack director, Tony Scott’s sixth collaboration with Jerry Bruckheimer has a title that can be taken as a provocation: Déjà Vu seems to invite glib puns about the recurrence of heated fast cuts and heavily filtered celluloid, of slick surfaces and…

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Amour (Michael Haneke, France/Austria)

By Christoph Huber / June 20, 2012

By Christoph Huber Besting Bille August by a year, it has taken Austrian director Michael Haneke only four to join what we cynical film critics like to call the Emir club: the allegedly prestigious circle of two-time Palme d’Or winners, hitherto occupied only by Kusturica (1985, 1995), August (1988, 1992), and the Dardennes (1999, 2005).…

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Paul W.S. Anderson

By Christoph Huber / April 4, 2012

By Christoph Huber Long mainstream-despised as a videogame hack—although his case has been adopted by a handful of highbrow critics—Brit-born Paul W.S. is the elder, least pretentious, and most consistently amusing Anderson of the current director trifecta: its termite artisan. With the homegrown Newcastle juvenile-delinquent story Shopping (1994), he delivered a stylish calling card and…

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Cannes 2011 | Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (Miike Takashi, Japan) and Guilty of Romance (Sono Sion, Japan)

By Christoph Huber / June 28, 2011

By Christoph Huber Programmed in typical Cannes fashion as almost overlapping screenings, the double feature consisting of the press show of Miike Takashi’s competition entry Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai and the sole Quinzaine “special screening” of Sono Sion’s Guilty of Romance made for an instructive lesson in festival reception. On the most superficial level,…

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Twelve Notes on Twelve: A Film by Joel Schumacher

By Christoph Huber / January 7, 2011

By Christoph Huber 1) Twenty-five years ago, a film by Joel Schumacher about young, self-centred, superficial people was greeted by mostly dismissive reviews: it was called St. Elmo’s Fire. 2) This year, a film by Joel Schumacher about young, self-centred, superficial people was greeted by abysmal reviews: it was called Twelve.

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Spotlight | In the Shadows (Thomas Arslan, Germany)

By Christoph Huber / December 17, 2010

By Christoph Huber “Soccer has to be generous with the viewer.” Thomas Arslan once quoted César Luis Menotti’s “harsh criticism of boring efficiency-football,” adding, “Actually also a fine dictum for filmmaking.” Arslan’s own work is a perfect example of that spirit, which may be one of the reasons he’s been somewhat neglected, especially internationally, even…

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Interviews | You Only Live Twice: Scaling Menahem Golan’s Heights

By Christoph Huber / September 21, 2010

By Christoph Huber “All created things are mutable, and thus they have the potentiality either to improve or to turn toward evil.”—John of Damascus (opening quote of The Versace Murder, 1998) Certainly the world would be much poorer without Menahem Golan. Especially the world of film. How to do justice to a man whose office…

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Currency | The Blacks (Goran Dević and Zvonimir Jurić, Croatia)

By Christoph Huber / June 22, 2010

While Edgar Allan Poe’s black cat cries its way out of a walled-in-tomb, the one quietly meowing while feeding its offspring at the beginning of Goran Dević and Zvonimir Jurić’s impressive war drama The Blacks (Crnci, 2009) remains in the centre of a trap. Quite literally—a typical offhanded reveal late in the film makes shockingly…

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Spotlight | Des hommes et des dieux (Xavier Beauvois, France)

By Christoph Huber / June 18, 2010

By Christoph Huber Of the handful of promising filmmakers to emerge from France in the ‘90s, not many have withstood the test of time. While quite a few contenders seemed to disappear from view during the last decade, the star of Xavier Beauvois, who debuted in 1991 with the impressive semiautobiographical family drama Nord, has…

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Features | Taking Time: Peter Schreiner Returns

By Christoph Huber / March 17, 2010

By Christoph Huber “Making films,” says Peter Schreiner, “is a means of talking. Maybe even a substitute for talking. I’ve always had—and still do—a problem with the imprecision of language.” It is the summer of 2009, and we are sitting in the garden of his family’s inherited house in Grinzing, Vienna’s nice, green suburb famous…

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The Decade in Review | Christoph Huber & Olaf Möller

By Christoph Huber / March 16, 2010

Instead of yet another list of favorites, the Ferroni Brigade offers a dozen extraordinary films that have remained marginalized for different reasons; a little anthology of current film culture’s blind spots and an antidote for people who, like us, are lulled to sleep browsing the Times et al. polls. Notes from the Basement (2000). If…

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Deaths of Cinema | The Vanishing In memoriam: Gerhard Benedikt Friedl

By Christoph Huber / September 12, 2009

By Christoph Huber “Did Wolff von Amerongen commit bankruptcy offences? Or didn’t he?” Gerhard (Benedikt) Friedl’s director’s note may seem somewhat evasive on the question that provides the (great) title of his only feature, Hat Wolff von Amerongen Konkursdelikte begangen? (2004), not to mention his description of the work itself, on which he concludes: “The…

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Red Cliff (John Woo, China)

By Christoph Huber / September 12, 2009

By Christoph Huber Although arguably the major Asian film event of 2008/2009, John Woo’s colossal Chinese comeback—after a 16-year Hollywood hiatus—has yet to make a dent in the Western world. The reason for that is simple. The two-part costume actioner Red Cliff is based on one of the great classical novels of Chinese literature, Luo…

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Features | Killing Time: The Economical Diversity of Johnnie To

By Christoph Huber / September 4, 2009

By Christoph Huber In the beginning was the hairy mole, and the hairy mole belongs to Lam Suet. For the last decade it has been one of the most hypnotic fixtures in the work of Johnnie To (Kei-Fung), and it never looked so hairy as in To’s frankly rather silly 2001 sequel Running Out of…

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Cannes 2007 | Import Export (Ulrich Seidl, Austria)

By Christoph Huber / September 3, 2009

By Christoph Huber The motto of this year’s Competition might as well have been “running on empty” given the abundance of dubious exercises in style from patented postmodern pastiche (how could anybody take the Coens’ last-quarter bid for profundity seriously?) to straight-faced self-parody (Wong, Kim, etc.). So all the more ironic that it was Ulrich…

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Features | Welcome to the Wasteland: Wakamatsu Koji’s Radical Resistance

By Christoph Huber / September 1, 2009

By Christoph Huber “It is something new that is always old; something old that is always new.”—Louis-Auguste Blanqui, Eternity Through the Stars (1872) Undeniably, there is some poetic justice to the fact that United Red Army, Wakamatsu Koji’s monumental chronicle of the excited emergence and devastating disintegration of Japan’s ultra-left movement, towered head and shoulders…

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Spotlight | Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy)

By Christoph Huber / September 1, 2009

By Christoph Huber Right from the buzzing, symptomatically absurd opening shots of Mafiosi getting tans in the confines of a solarium, Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah grabs you with a strong sense of visual expressiveness and never ceases to let go: the film is nothing short of a pile-up of images powerful in both concrete and metaphorical…

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Features | Time and the Hour: For the Melancholy Mastery of Jean-Claude Van Damme

By Christoph Huber / August 31, 2009

By Christoph Huber “I’m too old for this shit,” sighs a slightly disgruntled Jean-Claude Van Damme after the amazing and amusing one-take action scene launching JCVD, the remarkable contraption directed and co-written by sophomore French director Mabrouk El Mechri. This tragicomic meta-movie ingeniously weaves a dash of fact into tongue-in-cheek fiction, with surprisingly moving results.…

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Features | The Man, The Myth, Mojica: Zé do Caixão’s Incredible Comeback

By Christoph Huber / August 29, 2009

By Christoph Huber Using excerpts of an interview conducted together with Vera Brozzoni, Markus Keuschnigg, and Olaf Möller. “With this film I seem to have been successful,” says a visibly satisfied José Mojica Marins a few days after the midnight premiere of his magnificent comeback film Encarnação do Demônio at the 2008 Venice film festival.…

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