By Mark Peranson

As this strangest of years plods not-so-merrily along, so as well do we, much lighter in the pocketbook but with all the resilience of an army of Mulans. (I think that metaphor makes sense, as I cannot currently afford to pay $30 to see a Disney film on Disney+ on my Apple computer). Reading the reports from Venice, which against the odds is taking place as I type, I sense a much-desired reawakening from the critical community, as reflected in the overly enthusiastic trade reviews for some films that have no business being in there. But by now I’ve figured out that’s all a matter of opinion and, anyhow, who can blame them; I’m getting a bit stir crazy myself and could use reconnecting with familiar faces.

Thanks to the temporary flattening of the curves, in this in this issue we do have some new films to cover, that you probably already have watched in a cinema (you know what palindrome I’m talking about), or, in a few cases (e.g., Fauna, The Inheritance, Hopper/Welles), maybe in some oddball fashion at a film festival in your neck of the geoblocked woods. Keen eyes will have noticed our hiatus from the usual bulimic coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival online—it just didn’t feel right this year to treat everything as normal because, well, it isn’t. Plus, again, money—which I do not say to make light of the situation. The entire cinema business is in trouble, from the top all the way down to folks like us; Tenet is just a band-aid. Also, we do need to save something to cover for the next issue which, fingers crossed, will be a witness to a wider return to normalcy, as opposed to pandemic-era anorexia and, also, will hopefully be published back on schedule.

Another of these new films is Gianfranco Rosi’s Notturno, which is the one of only two films to have been honoured with a selection from the autumnal quadfecta of Venice (where it was premiered in a cinema, with masked clientele), Toronto (in cinema, masks on, masks off, drive-in, and virtual), New York (drive-in and virtual), and Telluride (“list”). I include these comments for the sake of posterity, and with no intent of elaborating on the so-called “collaboration” between said entities. Notturno is kind of a no brainer to program, really—I haven’t seen Nomadland, the more vocal evidence of collaboration, at the time of writing—and as I have more to say about Notturno in the pages that follow, there’s no need too elaborate now, only to wish you good luck at the drive-in. A strange year indeed.

Then there’s Netflix, the great cinematic winners of the pandemic, which skipped the festivals—that attempt at festival collaboration didn’t work out so well after all—yet will continue to drop awards-season titles like clockwork until the end of the year. Leading off the fall back, and adeptly covered herein, is Charlie Kaufman’s new film, sporting the most apropos of titles for the current state of mind.

On that note, in all honesty and with no shame whatsoever, I do ask readers yet again to consider subscribing to the magazine, because even the additional Canadian government support isn’t going to be enough to keep this going forever. And If The Batman can get COVID-19, none of us are safe. Not to mention, in North America a subscription is less than the cost of a virtual ticket to Mulan.

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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 →