Phil Coldiron

Titane (Julie Ducournau, France/Belgium)

By Phil Coldiron / September 20, 2021

The erotic history of the car in cinema extends back nearly to the dawn of the medium: there’s Chaplin, in 1914, asserting in his first film that he’s a more enticing view than the soapbox derbies at the Kid Auto Races (no engines yet).

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TIFF 2021 | Titane (Julie Ducournau, France/Belgium)

By Phil Coldiron / September 9, 2021

By Phil Coldiron Published in Cinema Scope #88 (Fall 2021) The erotic history of the car in cinema extends back nearly to the dawn of the medium: there’s Chaplin, in 1914, asserting in his first film that he’s a more enticing view than the soapbox derbies at the Kid Auto Races (no engines yet). Though…

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“I prefer, where truth is important, to write fiction:” On Radu Jude

By Phil Coldiron / June 15, 2021

In the name of the popular, delighting in reduction and obviousness, a boring assertion: the common ground of every film movement christened a “new wave” over the last 70 years has tended toward revision, a self-conscious desire to provide a true image of the people in opposition to the distorted picture given by whatever relevant iterations of official culture. The banality of this claim can be measured by the volume of cant and platitude produced in support of it, often by the artists themselves. There is, I hope, little need to rehearse these arguments regarding realism, myth, and so on. Who today can help but squirm when faced with the phrase “true image of the people?”

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All the Fountains of the Great Deep: Artavazd Pelechian’s La Nature

By Phil Coldiron / December 22, 2020

By Phil Coldiron Artists who write clearly about their work run a serious risk: that they will be taken at their word. In much of contemporary art this dynamic has descended to the point that the work, the sensuous object, functions as little more than an illustration of the artist’s statement, a vestigial offering to…

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Discrete Charms: Rotterdam’s Tiger Short Competition

By Phil Coldiron / March 20, 2020

By Phil Coldiron We still have not found a satisfactory way to show new short films. The approach taken for the shorts competition at the International Film Festival Rotterdam—to treat ticketed programs as minimally thematic clusters of individual screenings, separated by a brief question and answer session with the filmmaker if present (and most were)—argues,…

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Pleasurable Surfaces: The Films of Zachary Epcar

By Phil Coldiron / September 23, 2019

If one were to enumerate the major trends in sophisticated American filmmaking in the last decade, it seems to me that Zachary Epcar’s films would provide an adequate summary of such a list. In their wit, their formal restlessness, and their sharp conception of certain stickier corners of the American psyche, they continue the Nelson-Land tradition. Given the intense pleasures of their surfaces and textures, both visual and aural, I will simply attempt to describe them in as much detail as possible, while focusing on the four major works Epcar has made to date.

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Billy (Zachary Epcar, US) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 6, 2019

By Phil Coldiron If one were to enumerate the major trends in sophisticated American filmmaking in the last decade, it seems to me that Zachary Epcar’s films would provide an adequate summary of such a list. In their wit, their formal restlessness, their sharp conception of certain stickier corners of the American psyche, they continue…

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Liberté (Albert Serra, France/Spain/Portugal/Germany) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 5, 2019

  By Phil Coldiron Published in Cinema Scope #79 (Summer 2019) —I feel like prey. —Perhaps soon you won’t anymore. If there is a dialectical movement to be found in Albert Serra’s decidedly non-dialectical films, it is in the relationship they figure between movement and stasis. Firm in the belief, or delusion, that “chivalry is…

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Film/Art | Manhattan Style: Andy Warhol’s Empire

By Phil Coldiron / March 26, 2019

From A to B and Back Again. Given that “A” is “Andy,” what might count as a suitable “B”? In the context of the book of Warhol’s “philosophy” bearing that subtitle, it was literal: the Factory superstar Brigid Berlin and Interview magazine editor Bob Colacello, the other halves of the conversations which provided much of the book’s raw material.

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First Person Plural: On Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind

By Phil Coldiron / September 28, 2018

By Phil Coldiron “May he not be knave, fool, and genius altogether?” —Herman Melville, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade It begins with a death, of course, the first of the many quotations, slips, and rhymes coursing through The Other Side of the Wind, now finally arrived, more than 50 years after word of its conception first…

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Do It Again: On Ricky D’Ambrose’s Words and Images

By Phil Coldiron / March 16, 2018

By Phil Coldiron The quarrel between word and image is, on the eve of the third millennium of an illustrious career, in a period of relative calm, one marked by a casual cohabitation which has produced gratifying results in the arts and considerable trouble elsewhere, where it tends to be mistaken for the decay of…

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Ahead of Its Reflection: Ben Russell’s Good Luck

By Phil Coldiron / September 28, 2017

By Phil Coldiron “Now I am in front of a rock. It splits. No, it is no longer split. It is as before. Again it is split in two. No, it is not split at all. It splits once more. Once more no longer split, and this goes on indefinitely. Rock intact, then split, then…

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BOOM FOR REAL The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (Sara Driver, USA) — TIFF Docs

By Phil Coldiron / September 14, 2017

By Phil Coldiron GELDZAHLER: So they’re kinds [sic] of indexes to encyclopedias that don’t exist? BASQUIAT: I just like the names. Given that this exchange between curator and artist is typical of the latter’s saintly tendency towards terseness, Sara Driver’s decision to render her portrait of the five years before Basquiat exploded onto the art…

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Simulation (Abed Abest, Iran) — Discovery

By Phil Coldiron / September 8, 2017

By Phil Coldiron On a large, bare soundstage, actors dressed in street clothes and day-glo blue boots gather to play a curiously shaped morality tale set in Abadan, an Iranian town near the country’s border with Iraq. The props and settings—a police station, a pair of apartments—are plainly artificial, rendered in green-screen green; the narrative…

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The Nothing Factory (Pedro Pinho, Portugal) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 7, 2017

By Phil Coldiron In 1978, the earliest year for which OECD labour statistics on Portugal are available, more than 60% of the country’s workforce was unionized. By 1986, the year the country was accepted into the European Economic Community, that number had dropped to just over 40%. Today, following the arc typical of a Western…

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PROTOTYPE (Blake Williams, Canada) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 6, 2017

By Phil Coldiron Early in the autumn of 1900, four months before Edison closed the Black Maria and five years before the Lumière brothers left the cinematograph business altogether for what they supposed to be less trivial concerns, a storm landed at the booming port town of Galveston, Texas and killed perhaps as many as…

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Good Luck (Ben Russell, France/Germany) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 1, 2017

By Phil Coldiron “Now I am in front of a rock. It splits. No, it is no longer split. It is as before. Again it is split in two. No, it is not split at all. It splits once more. Once more no longer split, and this goes on indefinitely. Rock intact, then split, then…

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Would You Like to See a Magic Trick?: Basma Alsharif’s Ouroboros and its Contexts

By Phil Coldiron / June 23, 2017

By Phil Coldiron “À quiconque a perdu ce qui ne se retrouve Jamais, jamais!” —Charles Baudelaire On a clear day in the spring of this year, having fallen under the geometric spell of an exhibition of new work by the photographer Sara Cwynar, a young woman found herself on the wrong uptown train and was…

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Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, US)

By Phil Coldiron / December 19, 2016

By Phil Coldiron Liberty City, the Miami neighbourhood Barry Jenkins hails from and the setting for much of Moonlight, his exceptional second feature, has a median annual household income of under $22,000; 47% of its population lives below the United States federal poverty line, while nearly a third of working-age adults are unemployed. Grown up…

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Film/Art | Farewell to Storyville: John Akomfrah’s New Essays

By Phil Coldiron / September 26, 2016

By Phil Coldiron “He began sifting through his store of images for a story to recount to them, shielding this place and its particularities from their imaginations.”—John Keene, Counternarratives “Just because it is possible to invent a narrative excuse for the way something presents itself doesn’t, I think, mean that it is narrative.”—Hollis Frampton Situated…

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True Colours: On Margaret Honda’s Style

By Phil Coldiron / March 21, 2016

By Phil Coldiron Margaret Honda’s sudden emergence, nearly 30 years into her artistic career and two decades on from her first museum show (Recto Verso at Los Angeles MOCA), as a deeply intriguing new figure in filmmaking is anomalous in several ways. Her two films, Spectrum Reverse Spectrum (2014) and Color Correction (2015), in their…

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Carol (Todd Haynes, US)

By Phil Coldiron / December 21, 2015

By Phil Coldiron It is a question of pleasure after all… Reporting from Cannes, Daniel Kasman concluded his dispatch for Mubi’s Notebook on Carol with an apparently simple question, one to which he admitted he was unable to find a satisfactory answer: “So what is at stake here?” To be certain, the stakes of Todd…

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Necessary Means: Isiah Medina on 88:88

By Phil Coldiron / September 22, 2015

By Phil Coldiron One of the enduring problems of the cinema is that André Bazin’s answer to the question, “What is it?” is so convincing that he was able to pass off an ontology of one of its modes, namely realism, as a sufficient description of the whole. Of course, the issue hardly begins with…

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TIFF 2015 | Cinema Scope 64 Preview | 88:88 (Isiah Medina, Canada)—Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 2, 2015

Necessary Means: Isiah Medina on 88:88 By Phil Coldiron Originally published in Cinema Scope 64 (Fall 2015). One of the enduring problems of the cinema is that André Bazin’s answer to the question, “What is it?” is so convincing that he was able to pass off an ontology of one of its modes, namely realism,…

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Implications of a Totality: Frames for the Films of Joseph Bernard

By Phil Coldiron / June 23, 2015

By Phil Coldiron In the decade spanning 1975 to 1985, visual artist Joseph Bernard completed more than 100 films in Super 8mm. Frustrated by a lack of funds, materials, and attention, he withdrew from filmmaking and, ultimately, public art production entirely, though he remained on the faculty at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, retiring in…

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The Funniest Joke in the World: On Rick Alverson’s Entertainment

By Phil Coldiron / March 26, 2015

By Phil Coldiron When viewed from within the bounds of the traditional, psychologically involved viewer, Entertainment, Rick Alverson’s second mature feature following The Comedy (2012), plays as the darkly comic passion of a man circling the drain leading down from one symbolic scene of death to another; an unpleasant journey, but still, a journey. It…

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Don’t Look Back: Life and Death and the Films of Mary Helena Clark

By Phil Coldiron / December 17, 2014

By Phil Coldiron Why am I finding it so hard to write about Mary Helena Clark’s films? There’s something to their poetry… But to even start a claim like that, we have to have a working definition of poetry in (relation to?) the cinema, for now; right now. Because we’ve all finally turned our backs…

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Flicker Flicker Flicker Blam Pow Pow: Five Films by Jodie Mack

By Phil Coldiron / December 12, 2013

By Phil Coldiron Six year ago, writing in these pages on the films of Michael Robinson, Michael Sicinski raised a crucial question, one for which he offered Robinson’s work as a possible answer, and one which, it seems to me, has only grown in urgency in the frequently disastrous years since: “How can experimental cinema…

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The End of Cinema: La última película

By Phil Coldiron / August 28, 2013

By Phil Coldiron What comes at the end of cinema? Not what comes after cinema—a good question for marketing gurus like Spielberg and Lucas and Cameron to lock themselves in a room and argue over until they expire, choking on their own hot air—but right there at the end, in death tranquil or terrifying or…

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Pretending That Life Has No Meaning: Paul Schrader’s The Canyons

By Phil Coldiron / June 26, 2013

By Phil Coldiron It starts with a look. And then another, and another, and before you know it 90 minutes have gone by in a rush of looks, because that’s all anyone does in Los Angeles—they look. The fact of it is that most of this looking is at the back of someone else’s car…

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Middlegame: An Interview with Andrew Bujalski

By Phil Coldiron / March 21, 2013

By Phil Coldiron Here’s a human point: this little introduction to the following interview with Andrew Bujalski on the occasion of the Sundance and Berlin premieres of his extraordinary new film, Computer Chess, has given me more sleepless nights than just about anything I’ve ever written. In a way that very few films have ever…

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Blood and Thunder: Enter the Leviathan

By Phil Coldiron / September 11, 2012

Let’s start with a coincidence. The title of Part I, Chap. 1 of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan: “Of Sense.” The name of the Harvard project headed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, whose new film, made in collaboration with Véréna Paravel, shares a title with Hobbes’ seminal work of political philosophy: the Sensory Ethnography Lab. This isn’t to say…

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Eight Footnotes on a Brief Description of Footnotes to a House of Love, and Other Films by Laida Lertxundi

By Phil Coldiron / June 24, 2012

By Phil Coldiron …A group of young people1 in the California2 desert.3 A radio.4 A house that’s little more than the idea of a house.5 A woman6 crosses a room, passes by the camera,7 says, “You’re leaving me…”8   1. What does it mean to make youth cinema in America today? While Hollywood aged parabolically…

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Talking Pictures: Jean-Luc Godard’s Introduction to a True History of Cinema and Television

By Phil Coldiron / May 18, 2012

By Phil Coldiron From April to October of 1978, Jean-Luc Godard made seven trips to Montreal’s Concordia University, delivering two lectures on each occasion. These lectures followed a simple format:  the morning was devoted to showing excerpts from classic films, as well as works from the first decade of Godard’s career in their entirety; the…

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