By Mark Peranson

It’s true that the bulk of the films that are covered in any particular issue of this magazine first show publically at film festivals, and, in many cases, only show at festivals. Thus, once again in this last issue of the year, we present a small selection of reviews from films that recently debuted on the circuit. But I would be remiss not to note that the so-called “premiere festivals” like Toronto make up but a tiny slice of the festival pie. I know I’m lucky that my job allows me to attend many such events: I write this having recently travelled to festivals in Vienna, Gijon and Singapore, where I was struck by the obvious realization that festivals are about more than the films—and I’m not just talking about the food. (On that note, to opine on the latest major festival gossip, certainly it would make the most sense, all things considered, for a celebrity chef to run the next Berlinale.)

As this magazine is generally concerned with the films themselves and, for the most part, not about the context in which they are shown (Cannes being the obvious exclusion), sometimes we forget that most film festivals are local events, and thus serve specific communities. It’s hard to really capture this in that genre of text known as the “festival report,” because to understand what most festivals are doing you really need to be there, and be part of the community in which it takes place—which might be why you’re less likely to read festival reports here. So let me take this opportunity to publicly apologize, and to highlight the stellar work that all of these festival organizers are doing; just because they don’t host world premieres doesn’t make them any less valuable.

Now a few words on my least favourite subject. You’ll have to wait for the next issue for the much-anticipated Cinema Scope Top Ten, but just so I can avoid commenting on it later, I’m sure that the tour de force Twin Peaks: The Return will be our choice for one of the top ten “films” of the year, because it’s heads above anything else shown in festivals, in release or otherwise, and it premiered directly to all participants in the global community. (I’m making it eligible for “year-end consideration,” and I’m quite sure that I’ll be on the right side of history.) I don’t feel the need to list the historical examples of films “made for television” that are now essentially canonized, and by the time this is printed this useless debate will probably have subsided. (In fact, if I saw any personal value in top-ten lists, I would be tempted to list ten Peaks episodes separately, or maybe divide the chosen ones equally between David Lynch, Hong Sangsoo, and Heinz Emigholz.)

But what exactly are the gatekeepers worried about? Having to watch more TV? Speaking as someone who unfortunately watches the bulk of his movies on his computer screen, I don’t give a shit if something is “made to be seen” in a cinema or not—this is 2017, not 1957. The point is to keep all options open: so, it’s great that Dunkirk can still be shot and exhibited on film, and it’s great that someone gave Lynch money and freedom to create 18 goddamned hours of awesomeness. Look at it another way: more than 75 percent of films released in cinemas that are made for public exhibition are garbage and in no way cinematic, and likewise, most television product is mindless dreck. (Though I’ll defend Mindhunter, Nathan for You, naturally, The Leftovers, and I could go on…Frankly, I’d be more enthusiastic compiling a list of TV shows rather than films released in theatres.) If you don’t want to call it “cinema” or “film,” that’s fine too—go ahead and make up another word. (Email suggestions to info@cinema-scope.com.) But I’m OK with calling everything cinema, thank you very much, even if it’s a word which means everything and nothing at the same time.

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From the Magazine

  • Issue 84 Table of Contents

    INTERVIEWS *The Act of Living: GianfrancThe Act of Living: Gianfranco Rosi on Notturnoo Rosi on Notturno By Mark Peranson*Reconstructing Violence: Nicolás Pereda on Fauna By More →

  • The Act of Living: Gianfranco Rosi on Notturno

    “The night scares me so much,” confesses a courageous Yazidi pre-teen girl to a therapist, remembering the period when she and her younger sister were captured by ISIS. Anyone who was seen crying would be killed, they were told; it turned out to be a vacant threat, but the sisters were still beaten, and now they are attempting to exorcise their memories by drawing pictures of them. Does it help? We never find out. More →

  • Reconstructing Violence: Nicolás Pereda on Fauna

    There’s a point in nearly every Nicolás Pereda film when the narrative is either reoriented or upended in some way. In the past this has occurred through bifurcations in story structure or via ruptures along a given film’s docufiction fault line. Pereda’s ninth feature, Fauna, extends this tradition, though its means of execution and conceptual ramifications represent something new for the 38-year-old Mexican-Canadian filmmaker. More →

  • I Lost It at the Movies: Charlie Kaufman’s Antkind and I’m Thinking of Ending Things

    “It’s all planned, but it isn’t thought out,” wrote Pauline Kael in her review of A Woman Under the Influence (1974), a nifty bit of critical jiu-jitsu turning John Cassavetes’ much-theorized—and, during Kael’s reign at The New Yorker, much-derided—technique of spontaneous improvisation within a dramatic framework against him. More →

  • Open Ticket: The Long, Strange Trip of Ulrike Ottinger

    One of the most surprising things about Ulrike Ottinger’s new documentary Paris Calligrammes is how accessible it is. Some cinephiles may be familiar with Ottinger based on an 11-year period of mostly fictional productions that were adjacent to the New German Cinema but, for various reasons, were never entirely subsumed within that rubric. Others are quite possibly more aware of her later work in documentary, in particular her commitment to a radical form of experimental ethnographic cinema. More →