I Thought I Was Seeing Palestinians: On Kamal Aljafari

By Kaleem Hawa / January 6, 2021

By Kaleem Hawa At the end of Kamal Aljafari’s latest film, An Unusual Summer, the Palestinian filmmaker recalls a memory from his childhood, centred on the communal garden outside of his home in the city of Ramlah, a 30-minute drive southeast of Tel Aviv: As a child I spent summerclimbing the fig treefilling straw baskets…

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Cinema Scope Issue 85 Table of Contents

By Cinema Scope / December 22, 2020

FEATURES The Play for Tomorrow: Steve McQueen’s Small Axe by Michael Sicinski The Crowd is Dead, Long Live the Crowd! by Erika Balsom All the Fountains of the Great Deep: Artavazd Pelechian’s La Nature by Phil Coldiron Minority Report: Armond White Wants to Make Spielberg Great Again by Adam Nayman F for Fake: Mank by Andrew Tracy…

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The Play for Tomorrow: Steve McQueen’s Small Axe

By Michael Sicinski / December 22, 2020

By Michael Sicinski One of the best known of Steve McQueen’s early video works is Deadpan (1997), a four-minute, 35-second loop in which the artist simultaneously places himself in harm’s way and in film history. The piece is a recreation of the famous Buster Keaton stunt from Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) in which the façade…

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The Crowd Is Dead, Long Live the Crowd!

By Erika Balsom / December 22, 2020

By Erika Balsom for RMC 1.  It was a total coincidence and yet it felt freighted with meaning: when I returned to the cinema at the end of August after months of suffering with the small screen, the first two films I saw began with crowd scenes.  The streets of London were eerily empty as…

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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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Minority Report: Armond White Wants to Make Spielberg Great Again

By Adam Nayman / December 22, 2020

By Adam Nayman The “About the Author” section of Armond White’s new critical anthology does not disappoint. In the space of four short paragraphs, White is identified as “esteemed, controversial and brilliantly independent” as well as “The Last Honest Film Critic in America”; his résumé comprises “auspicious tomes” that are “essential for anyone who loves…

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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…

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Beginning (Dea Kulumbegashvili, Georgia/France)

By Lawrence Garcia / December 22, 2020

By Lawrence Garcia Beginning opens with a sermon on the Old Testament tale of Abraham and Isaac, delivered to a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Georgia’s predominantly Orthodox Christian Caucasus region. Just as the preacher, David (Rati Oneli), starts to expound on its implications regarding belief, the Kingdom Hall is firebombed by unseen attackers, transforming the…

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The Calming (Song Fang, China)

By Courtney Duckworth / December 22, 2020

By Courtney Duckworth Inertia implies stillness, but more precisely it means that without intervention any body resists change. The word conjures ceaseless motion as much as it does stasis—someone who cannot go on, or someone who can do nothing else. Something of this semantic tension imbues The Calming, writer-director Song Fang’s ascetic second feature. Lin…

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Genus Pan (Lav Diaz, Philippines)

By Jesse Cumming / December 22, 2020

By Jesse Cumming Marking Lav Diaz’s return to Venice four years and two features after winning the Golden Lion for the nearly four-hour The Woman Who Left, Genus Pan has invited easy jokes about its relative brevity by Diaz standards, clocking in as it does at a relatively efficient 156 minutes—even though it is, in fact,…

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Her Socialist Smile (John Gianvito, US)

By Jordan Cronk / December 22, 2020

By Jordan Cronk In a year when even the most perfunctorily political film has been deemed newly relevant, it’s a 58-minute observational documentary from 2007 that, by quietly surveying the United States’ progressive past, points most perceptively to the struggle that has faced the American Left since long before 2020. A history of violence and…

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Editor’s Note Cinema Scope Magazine Issue 85

By Mark Peranson / December 22, 2020

The idea of a festival as a firewall seems to be stating the obvious, but 2020 has answered the question: what if you throw a film festival and nobody shows up?

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There Are Not Thirty-Six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse (Nicolás Zukerfeld, Argentina)

By Devika Girish / December 22, 2020

By Devika Girish The films of Nicolás Zukerfeld pit images against words, staging wily games of onscreen meaning-making. Literary miscellanea often spur the ambulatory narratives of the Argentine director’s works: a mysterious letter opens into two Rashomon-esque views of a street encounter in the short La distancia entre las cosas (2008); annotated articles and battered…

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Global Discoveries on DVD: The Importance of Not Being an Auteur

By Jonathan Rosenbaum / December 22, 2020

By Jonathan Rosenbaum Teaching an online course on Agnès Varda at the School of the Art Institute this fall for 39 students has put me in regular touch with Criterion’s superb 15-disc Blu-ray box set The Complete Films of Agnès Varda, every week. The packaging reminds me in some ways of the handsome 78 rpm…

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Exploded View | Michael Snow’s Cover to Cover

By Chuck Stephens / December 22, 2020

By Chuck Stephens When I was young, people spoke of immorality.All the things they said were wrong are what I want to be. Over, under, sideways, down, (Hey!)  I bounce a ball that’s square and round. When will it end? —The Yardbirds, 1966 Scrutable curio and irresistible objet, Michael Snow’s 1975 “artist’s book” Cover to…

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Nomadland (Chloe Zhao, US)

By Robert Koehler / December 22, 2020

By Robert Koehler A passage in Jessica Bruder’s book Nomadland describes the unlikely birth and hard death of the life of Empire, a mining town in northwest Nevada. “In 1923,” Bruder writes, “laborers established a tent colony on the site of what later became the town. By some accounts, Empire boasted the longest continuously operating…

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Hillbilly Elegy (Ron Howard, US)

By Darren Hughes / December 22, 2020

By Darren Hughes In his 1892 inaugural address, governor William MacCorkle warned that in the coming years West Virginia would find itself occupying the same “position of vassalage” that Ireland held in relation to England, and for similar reasons: “But the men who today are purchasing the immense areas of the most valuable lands in…

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