Harrison-Ford-on-David-Blaine-Real-or-MagicBy Mark Peranson

I haven’t had much time or energy to watch many films since late August, having been preoccupied with other fruitless, time-consuming endeavours, fending off vicious personal attacks, and moving around far too much. (Here’s a secret: after more than a decade of gallivanting, film festivals mostly suck.) So a thousand pardons if because of my lapses, dear reader (in the singular), you’re missing out on some solid, primo holiday Oscar bait. About the only thing I’ve seen that I’ve had any strong opinion or desire to write on—next to the high masterpiece that is the Rafi and Dirty Randy episode of The League—is the last David Blaine special. That guy really can do some amazing shit with playing cards. Just ask Harrison Ford.

But in all honesty (and to probably repeat myself), there is an editorial problem that strikes all film-related activities at this time of year, when it starts to get dark earlier, whether it is the aforementioned awards obsession, or its related personal bugaboo, the compiling of year-end top ten lists: both tend to reward mediocrity, suppress original vision, and decimate independent thought. To cite Dave Hickey—guess I’ve had slightly more of a desire recently to read (or to think) than to watch—there are far too many farmers in this industry, and not enough pirates. And it’s pretty damned agonizing to be a pirate in a farmer’s world; every which way I look the poisoned plants are sprouting up all around me, and some, I am quite sure, are festering in my midst. I am not amused.

Words of wisdom: Beware all those critics bearing lists this holiday season, for their tastes need not drive your own. Cover your eyes (or at least wear a black Fordian patch over one) when browsing in charted waters; or shoot metaphorical daggers at the tweets and links guiding your soul to middlebrow purgatory. Fend off the never-ending steamroller of hype, in all its forms (which is even doing its best to ruin the shining, crack-infused prospects of Anchorman 2). Retreat via commandeered fishing ship to that metaphorical desert island, with your Jerry Lewis and Alain Badiou; don’t trust anyone under or over 30, especially if he is your mayor. Look backwards and forwards in anger. Fight the laws of gravity. Regurgitate your cultural vegetables. Download to your heart’s content.

What about cinema? What about life? See the pages that follow, actual paper pages, the product of unalienated labour. Mostly what we present in the pages that follow is the same as we’ve strived to do for the last 50+ issues: an alternative vision of cinema today, one which foregrounds film as art. (There’s a lot in here that you might want to classify as “experimental” or “avant-garde” cinema; we just call it “cinema.”) Take it or leave it—it doesn’t really matter that much to me, even if it’s war out there, with words being weapons, and most of those weapons shooting blanks. Nor should you really care what I think: it’s only one man’s opinion, and this one’s getting older and older by the day. Film criticism is a young man’s game, and I’m reaching for my cane.

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From the Magazine

  • Issue 87: Table of contents

    Alexandre Koberidze, Dasha Nekrasova,Radu Jude, Amalia Ulman, Monte Hellman, TV or not TV, Eberhard and Phyllis Kronhausen, Azor, New Order, Siberia More →

  • Remembering Women: Claudia von Alemann’s Blind Spot

    Cherchez la femme, they say. It sounds nice, but what this expression actually means is that woman is the root of all (male) problems, always to blame. Claudia von Alemann’s extraordinary Blind Spot (Die Reise nach Lyon, 1980), recently restored by the Deutsche Kinemathek in cooperation with the Institut Lumière, is a rare film that puts the pursuit of a woman at its heart—not so that she can be punished, not so that a man’s troubles can be explained, but so that her achievements might be rescued from oblivion and might, in the process, change another woman’s life. More →

  • Common Sense Connoisseur: The Critical Legacy of Bertrand Tavernier

    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. More →

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

    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?” More →

  • Siberia (Abel Ferrara, Italy/Germany/Mexico/Greece/UK)

    Abel Ferrara is a changed man. While the evidence suggests that this is very good news for Ferrara himself and his immediate family, it could result in a minor schism in the manner in which his films are received. For most of his career Ferrara has been the subject of a Romantic cult that glorified his legendarily self-destructive behaviour, and often read this (literal) lawlessness as an integral part of his renegade creative vision. More →