Interviews Tales from the Unama’ki Hospital: Ashley McKenzie on Queens of the Qing Dynasty by Adam Nayman Pointing the Moral Index Finger: Ruth Beckermann on Mutzenbacher by Darren Hughes Not on the Lips: Claire Denis on Avec amour et acharnement by Jordan Cronk Bravo, Richie: Ulrich Seidl on Rimini by Giovanni Marchini Camia Features I Know…
Intense duets are at the centre of Ashley McKenzie’s cinema. Her 2016 debut Werewolf portrayed a pair of emotionally conjoined drug users, juxtaposing devotion and addiction as two sides of the same coin. In her follow-up, Queens of the King Dynasty,which recently premiered in Berlin’s Encounters competition,a young psychiatric patient and her volunteer caregiver form a codependent relationship with shifting emotional and power dynamics.
Mutzenbacher, her twelfth feature and winner of the Best Film prize in the Encounters program at the 2022 Berlinale, is an unabashed provocation that dusts off a notorious, century-old pornographic text to interrogate masculinity and the strange, hand-wringing Puritanism of our modern age. As with all subjects that fall under her gaze, Beckermann observes sex, shame, desire, fear, fantasies, and transgression with a concentrated stare and a wry smile.
In all art there seems to be some principle of recurrence related to the repetitions of nature that conditions our sense of time—not just the passage of the seasons, but also the cycles of light and darkness, of waking and sleeping life. The films of Mikhaël Hers are no exception, though as with most any artist, he has his predilections.
he room,” Adam McKay played the more comfortable role of American comedy’s slouchy, politically savvy older brother. Improbable as his progressive-daddy glow up of the past few years might seem, the Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder, former Saturday Night Live head writer, and Academy Award-winning writer-director planted the seed of his transformation early in his predominantly unserious comedy fare.
Every single one of the films listed in this year’s top ten premiered at a film festival in 2021, in particular, either Berlin (four), Cannes (both six in Official Selection and two in Quinzaine), or Venice (two). And not only did all the films premiere at festivals, but every single one of them also had a theatrical release in North America (or, in the case of Hong Sangsoo and a few others, will have one in 2022; as typical of recent years, 12 months cannot conceivably contain the Hong output for said year).
Undoubtedly, the most referenced colour in the history of art has been the colour blue; it is perhaps also the most magnificent. From its invention by the ancient Egyptians, to the painted parchment in medieval Psalters, through Renaissance brocades and vast perspectival grids defined by winsome skies to those manufactured by James Turrell via artificial light or real ones enhanced and framed like sculptures, blue has the undeniable lure and power of a paradoxical emotion: to excite yet appease.
One time I was leaving Jack Ford’s house because I had a present I wanted to deliver to John Wayne. I told Ford, “It’s Duke’s birthday, I’m going over to give him a book.” “Eh?” he said. Sometimes Ford liked to pretend he was hard of hearing. So I repeated: “It’s Duke’s birthday, I’m going over to give him a book.” “Eh?” he said again. “It’s Duke’s birthday, I’m going over to give him a book.” Then a long pause. Ford says, “Duke’s already got a book.”
My pandemic home-viewing choices are invariably and inescapably matters of chance and accident—basically, what turns up and when. In different ways, all of the dozen items discussed below are examples of what I mean.
What was until very recently relegated to the safe and spectacular distance of the big screen is now getting uncomfortably closer to the comfortable lives of those who would have never thought to endure, in their lifetimes at least, pandemics, war, and misery. Solnicki’s film is not so much an antidote to this new, creeping reality, but to the loss of sensitivity upon which it is premised.
Sundance is the only major film festival in at least North America, and quite possibly the world, to create a section dedicated to the experimental/avant-garde and then turn around and destroy that section’s mission. The section is called New Frontiers, which used to be Sundance’s safe harbour for experimentation and, even if on rare occasions, non-narrative work. That was before the invasion of VR, which now has a near-monopoly on the section.
Screening in this year’s Berlinale Forum, Éric Baudelaire’s unique take on Luigi Pirandello’s 1923 short play The Man with the Flower in His Mouth assumes the form of a diptych: the first part is an observational documentary of Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer, the world’s largest flower market in the Netherlands; the second, a fictional, more explicit adaptation of Pirandello’s text, a conversation taking place over an evening in a Paris bar.
Shortly before the close of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, word began to circulate that a very successful, cash-flush US distributor had snagged the rights to Nitram, the fifth feature film by Australia’s Justin Kurzel. Although the film didn’t seem to make much of an impression upon its Croisette premiere, the Spike Lee-led jury took notice of Nitram’s star, Caleb Landry Jones, giving him a somewhat unexpected Best Actor prize.
Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis expand and deflate, by slyly cinematic means, upon a tradition of racconti popolari and fiabe.