Features

Trouble Up North: Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue

By Kate Rennebohm / September 20, 2021

While parental absence is a key trope of so many of the Spielberg(ian) youth films of 1980s Hollywood cinema—not only E.T. (1982), but also The Outsiders (1983), Explorers (1985), The Goonies (1985), Stand by Me (1986), The Monster Squad (1987), et al.—the aloneness of the young protagonists is always more a matter of narrative pretext than actual subject.

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To Sir, with Love: Maria Speth’s Mr. Bachmann and His Class

By Michael Sicinski / September 20, 2021

way through uncertain, liminal spaces. At the same time, the documentary marks a sharp turn in Speth’s filmmaking approach, something all the more notable given the remarkable consistency of her first four films.

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Remembering Women: Claudia von Alemann’s Blind Spot

By Erika Balsom / June 15, 2021

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.

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Common Sense Connoisseur: The Critical Legacy of Bertrand Tavernier

By Christoph Huber / June 15, 2021

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.

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

By Phil Coldiron / June 15, 2021

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?”

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Brief Encounters: Hamaguchi Ryusuke’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

By Beatrice Loayza / June 15, 2021

Sprawling, intimate conversations are crucial in the dialogue-driven films of Hamaguchi Ryusuke, but that which remains concealed—simmering behind a strategic facade, sheepish deception, or playful pretense—can be just as revealing. Consider the pivotal dinner conversation that takes place after a communication workshop in the 317-minute Happy Hour (2015), when Jun (Kawamura Rira) suddenly discloses the shocking news of her upcoming divorce trial and owns up to her infidelity to her callous husband

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Gag Orders: The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Judas and the Black Messiah

By Andrew Tracy / April 5, 2021

Bobby Seale makes a cameo of sorts midway through Judas and the Black Messiah, as Martin Sheen’s porcine J. Edgar Hoover—checking in personally on the progress of the FBI’s campaign against Chicago Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya)—is shown an artist’s sketch of the BPP’s national chairman gagged and shackled in the courtroom during the Chicago Conspiracy Trial. This revolting spectacle understandably serves as the mid-film dramatic highpoint of The Trial of the Chicago 7, when the repeated, suitably indignant demands by Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) to serve as his own defense counsel in the absence of his hospitalized lawyer—and presiding judge Julius Hoffman’s (Frank Langella) incredible refusal to grant this right, instead directing that Seale’s defense should be undertaken by the representatives for the other defendants—ultimately lead to him being bodily removed from the courtroom by marshals and returned in chains. That image of a defiant Black man, forcibly silenced and immobilized in a hall of American justice, became one of William Burroughs’ “frozen moment[s] at the end of the newspaper fork,” when everyone—including those who would applaud it—can see what they’re being fed.

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Journey to the Centre of the Earth: Fern Silva’s Itinerary

By Michael Sicinski / March 25, 2021

Fern Silva’s films cannot be described as ethnography, personal/mythopoeic film, or essay filmmaking, although they often partake of all of those modes. Though his films are rooted in particular places and cultural spheres, they assiduously avoid the rhetorical or declarative traps of typical nonfiction filmmaking. Instead, they envelop the viewer in a diffuse but concrete ambiance, conveying the palpability of land and water, the weight of the air surrounding hills and trees. They represent a doubled physicality—the world as unavoidably there, inseparable from the cinematic substrate of 16mm filmmaking itself—and the result is a hybridized form of documentary “fiction,” in the classical Latin sense. Silva’s films are made, formed in the interface between reality and those human and mechanical processes that bring it into being.

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Modern Mabuse: On Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales

By Josh Cabrita / March 25, 2021

I suppose now is the time to justify why I thought it worthwhile to begin a piece on Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (2006), whose Cannes cut has recently been released for the first time on home video courtesy of Arrow, with this exegesis of Lang’s final film. It’s not just that both Thousand Eyes and Southland Tales involve obscure conspiracy plots, take place in highly controlled and policed societies (the post-Nazi German surveillance state and the post-Patriot Act US, respectively), or examine complex information and transportation systems.

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

By Adam Nayman / September 22, 2020

“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.

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Open Ticket: The Long, Strange Trip of Ulrike Ottinger

By Michael Sicinski / September 22, 2020

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.

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A Pierce of the Action: On Claudine and Uptight

By Andrew Tracy / September 22, 2020

By Andrew Tracy In his Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes identified two elements at work in the act of viewing photographs. On one level was what he labelled the studium, which he defines as a sympathetic interest on the part of the viewer, “a kind of general, enthusiastic commitment, but without special acuity…To recognize the studium…

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The Home and the World: Three Films by Ruchir Joshi

By Jesse Cumming / September 22, 2020

In a recent article published in advance of the restoration and rerelease of his work, filmmaker and writer Ruchir Joshi detailed the context for creative Indian documentary in the late ’80s, just as he was developing his practice:

Independent documentary makers tended to attempt only two or three kinds of non-fiction films: Films commissioned by NGOs, “activist” films around a social or political issue about which the filmmaker felt passionately, and films to do with culture, usually traditional craft or performance.

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Chums at Midnight: On Hopper/Welles

By Alex Ross Perry / September 22, 2020

Presented as a “new” documentary of which Orson Welles is the credited director, Hopper/Welles is at once less and more than whatever would accurately befit that pithy description.

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In Search of the Female Gaze

By Erika Balsom / June 23, 2020

The trope of a woman removing her glasses to suddenly reveal her great beauty is as familiar as it is eye-roll-inducing. She never looks that different, but her status as an erotic object changes immediately and immensely. A classic example is Dorothy Malone as a bookstore clerk in The Big Sleep (1946), but more recently there is Rachel Leigh Cook descending the stairs to the saccharine sounds of “Kiss Me” in She’s All That (1999). Give up your active gaze, this convention seems to say, and you will be alluring.

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Live(stream) and In Person: Watching Zia Anger’s My First Film in the Age of Quarantine

By Jessica McGoff / June 23, 2020

Zia Anger’s My First Film is a lot of things: a cinema-performance art hybrid, a confrontation with traditional modes of film production and distribution, a radical reclamation of the narrative regarding what it means to be a female artist, and, now, a livestream rather than a live performance.

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Impresión de un cineasta: On the Films of Camilo Restrepo

By Jay Kuehner / March 20, 2020

The title of Camilo Restrepo’s breakout short film, Impressions of a War (2015), suggests the anomalies inherent in conceiving of a historical portrait of modern Colombia. A war is not typically thought of as something that leaves an impression; rather, it maims, disables, obliterates, defaces, violates. Nor does its legacy register as a mere impression: the cumulative trauma amounts to nothing less than an indelible scar, both corporeal and psychological, that exceeds reason, conciliation, and memory.

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They Are All Equal Now: The Irishman’s Epic of Sadness

By Robert Koehler / December 29, 2019

Since cinema is moving toward television, and since the MCU generation is trying to actually tussle with a good fella like Martin Scorsese, and since all of this is wrapped around a cultural moment steeped in glorious contradictions, the timing of The Irishman couldn’t be more perfect.

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Far from Paradise: Nina Menkes’ Queen of Diamonds

By Erika Balsom / December 29, 2019

By Erika Balsom Diamonds are sharp and hard, rich in myth and violence, soaked in desire, totally under the putrid spell of money. They are, in other words, a lot like Las Vegas—especially as it appears in Nina Menkes’ searing 1991 film Queen of Diamonds. Across 75 taut minutes, Sin City’s fabulous hedonism recedes from…

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Garden Against the Machine: Ja’Tovia Gary’s The Giverny Document

By Michael Sicinski / December 29, 2019

By Michael Sicinski Ja’Tovia Gary’s filmmaking is all to some extent grappling with the question of identity, particularly its precariousness in an often hostile world. Early films such as Cakes Da Killa: No Homo (2013) and An Ecstatic Experience (2015) explore the complex histories of African-American life, in particular the role of art and storytelling…

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Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 ft

By Josh Cabrita / September 23, 2019

The prospect of spending an hour and a half with people lacking in notable virtue, alluring vice, or any apparent interest, may seem like an unproductive exercise in forced empathy—but consider this skepticism a function, as opposed to a fault, of these tightly orchestrated, seemingly soporific character studies.

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For a Cinema of Bombardment

By Michael Sicinski / September 23, 2019

Although there have always been intrepid critics and cinephiles who have engaged with films belonging to the non-narrative avant-garde, there has existed a perception that such films, operating as they do on somewhat different aesthetic precepts, could be considered a separate cinematic realm, one that even the most dutiful critic could engage with or not, as he or she saw fit.

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Together We’re Willing to Take Any Risk: The Films of Han Ok-hee and Kaidu Club

By Jesse Cumming / September 23, 2019

In 1974, a group of students from the prestigious Ewha Womans University in Seoul formed South Korea’s first feminist film collective, Kaidu Club. Shepherded by the group’s de-facto president Han Ok-hee, the other members—who participated with varying degrees of involvement over the Club’s five years of existence—also included the painter Kim Jeom-seon, as well as academics and artists Lee Jeong-hee, Han Soon-ae, Jeong Myo-sook, and Wang Gyu-won. As the “Club” designation might suggest, the group was committed to both the promotion and production of experimental cinema, which was still in its domestic infancy.

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The Good Fight: The Films of Julia Reichert

By Bob Kotyk / July 3, 2019

By Robert Kotyk In the first scene of Julia Reichert’s first film, Growing Up Female (co-directed with Jim Klein, 1971), a woman takes the hand of a young girl, walks her down the front steps of a house, and guides her along an Ohio sidewalk, the girl moving along as though in a trance, taking in…

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Truth and Method: The Films of Thomas Heise

By Michael Sicinski / June 27, 2019

“Archaeology is about Digging” is the title of an essay by Thomas Heise, included in the DVD booklet for several of his films, including the 2009 film Material, a key film in terms of raising Heise’s profile outside of Europe. In the essay, the filmmaker describes the circumstances surrounding the making of the films included on the disc, particularly those early works made while living in the GDR prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall

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Thinking in Images: Scott Walker and Cinema

By Christoph Huber / June 21, 2019

“I am forever indebted to cinema,” wrote singer-songwriter Scott Walker in 2007. “It’s always been there for me in all manner of ways. I would not have lived my life here in Europe without it. Now and then I’ve found myself wandering in dark towns or cities rather like those depicted by Kaurismäki. Have turned a corner and there was salvation looming before me in the form of a movie house.

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The Exorcist: Barbara Loden and Wanda

By Courtney Duckworth / March 26, 2019

Barbara Loden re-emerges in fragments. Caught in a 1965 snapshot from street photographer Garry Winogrand, she cuts across a wedge of city sunlight; tufts of windblown hair halo her wary face as one high heel steps just out of frame.

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Audrey II: Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell’s MS Slavic 7

By Adam Nayman / March 26, 2019

Canadians don’t do sequels. Or at least we don’t do them that often: Don Shebib went Down the Road Again again in 2011, and Bruce McDonald got the band back together for Hard Core Logo 2 (2010); commercially oriented hits like Fubar (2002) and Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006) have been profitable enough to justify follow-ups.

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Screenlife’s What You Make It: Thoughts on Searching, Profile, Unfriended: Dark Web, and Cam

By Jason Anderson / March 26, 2019

It’s one of the most cunning ironies in Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber’s Cam (2018) that just beyond the edges of the screen that dominates the protagonist’s existence is… another frame. It’s one of those chintzy, gilded affairs that an earlier generation of art enthusiasts used to spruce up velvet Elvis paintings, Margaret Keane knockoffs, and other garage-sale treasures; you’d also find them around mirrors in hotels you never visit twice.

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You Can’t Own an Idea: The Films of James N. Kienitz Wilkins

By Dan Sullivan / March 26, 2019

Rare these days is the filmmaker who proclaims that cinema is firstly a medium of ideas rather than of images and sounds, and few have made the case as strongly as James N. Kienitz Wilkins.

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To Thine Own Self Be True: Angela Schanelec on I Was at Home, But…

By Giovanni Marchini Camia / March 26, 2019

It’s outrageous that it should have taken this long for Angela Schanelec to make it into the Competition of the Berlinale—and ironic, given that it was a review of her film Passing Summer (2001), published in Die Zeit, that originated the term “Berliner Schule.”

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Ghost Operas: Music from the Films of Bertrand Bonello

By Sean Rogers / January 2, 2019

By Sean Rogers  “I think that to write the music for that scene was also his way to tell it…You almost have the impression that his script for the scene is the colour and the sound, that’s it.” Bertrand Bonello is here referring to a scene from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me…

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Soft and Hard: Claire Denis on High Life

By Adam Nayman / January 2, 2019

By Adam Nayman  There is a shot of an infant being carried by its father in Claire Denis’ L’intrus (2004) that may be the most rapt and tender image of its kind I’ve ever seen in a film. The first ten minutes of the director’s new High Life offer an extension and an elaboration of…

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Encore: Dora García’s Segunda vez

By Michael Sicinski / January 2, 2019

By Michael Sicinski  1. This is the story of a repetition. General Juan Perón was elected President of Argentina for the first time in 1946, and served two terms of office, from June 4 of that year through September 21, 1955. From 1946 through 1952, his first term, he ruled with his wife Eva at…

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The Land of the Unknown: Roberto Minervini on What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?

By Jordan Cronk / January 2, 2019

By Jordan Cronk  Writing for Cinema Scope in the winter of 2017, director Roberto Minervini reflected on a new wave of philistine cinema in America. For Minervini, this “covert-yet-not-so-subtle nationalistic, reactionary” brand of filmmaking—exemplified by the likes of Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario (2015)—is a prime example of how Hollywood, operating under the guise of liberal nonpartisanship, contributes…

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Tous les garçons et les filles: Philippe Lesage’s Genèse and Les démons

By Adam Nayman / September 28, 2018

By Adam Nayman On the basis of Les démons (2015) and his latest film Genèse—I haven’t caught up yet with Copenhague, a Love Story (2016) or his documentaries—Saint-Apagit-born writer-director Philippe Lesage is already one of the strongest stylists in Canadian cinema, cultivating, in collaboration with the gifted cinematographer Nicolas Canniccioni, a distanced, gliding camera style…

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Touch Me I’m Sick: Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell

By Jason Anderson / September 28, 2018

By Jason Anderson The phony magazine cover glimpsed in the early moments of Her Smell may not have the same heady metatextual allure as that of so many journals invented out of whole cloth and newsprint for narrative purposes, like the must-read issues of Dorgon and Kill Weekly on the newsstands in Blade Runner (1982)…

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First Person Plural: On Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind

By Phil Coldiron / September 28, 2018

By Phil Coldiron “May he not be knave, fool, and genius altogether?” —Herman Melville, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade It begins with a death, of course, the first of the many quotations, slips, and rhymes coursing through The Other Side of the Wind, now finally arrived, more than 50 years after word of its conception first…

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Exchange Rate: The Silent Partner at 40

By Adam Nayman / July 2, 2018

By Adam Nayman “I think Toronto is a wonderful town, smart and up to date, just like a good American city…makes me feel like I’m back home in Cleveland.” These words, spoken by a “Mr. Chester Vanderwick” (an apparently authentic Midwesterner, although I’ve always thought he looks and sounds like a bad actor) sum up…

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Transgressions in the Dark Age: The Films of Kim Ki-young and Lee Hwa-si

By Kelley Dong / June 25, 2018

By Kelley Dong “For me the vast open field of the unknown and the prison existed simultaneously.” — Kim Hye-soon, “Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream” After a string of US-funded anti-communist documentaries and neorealist melodramas, Korean director Kim Ki-young entered a new phase of his filmmaking with the wildly successful “Housemaid Trilogy,” comprising The Housemaid (1960) and its…

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Do It Again: On Ricky D’Ambrose’s Words and Images

By Phil Coldiron / March 16, 2018

By Phil Coldiron The quarrel between word and image is, on the eve of the third millennium of an illustrious career, in a period of relative calm, one marked by a casual cohabitation which has produced gratifying results in the arts and considerable trouble elsewhere, where it tends to be mistaken for the decay of…

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The Changing View of Man in the Portrait: Errol Morris’ Wormwood

By Lawrence Garcia / March 16, 2018

By Lawrence Garcia On November 28, 1953, Frank Olson, a civilian American scientist and Central Intelligence Agency employee, fell or jumped through a window from the 13th floor of the Hotel Statler (now the Hotel Pennsylvania) in midtown Manhattan. Thus begins Errol Morris’ plunge into the sordid, sensational CIA “mind-control” program known as MK-Ultra, with…

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“You Never Heard of Code-Switching, Motherfucker?”: Joseph Kahn’s Bodied

By Steven Shaviro / March 16, 2018

By Steven Shaviro Joseph Kahn did not much care for Damien Chazelle’s La La Land (2016). When the movie opened, he unleashed a sarcastic Twitter storm: “White people will love LA LA LAND…The dance numbers in LA LA LAND feel like Verizon commercials…99% of the couples in LA are interracial, except the one in LA…

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Madame Hyde (Serge Bozon, France/Belgium)

By Blake Williams / December 19, 2017

By Blake Williams “It’s a cry echoed by a thousand sentinels An order relayed by a thousand heralds A beacon flaring up a thousand citadels A call to hunters lost in the great woods…” — Charles Baudelaire, “Les Phares” (1857)   “A woman of fire makes no sense.” — Madame Hyde (Isabelle Huppert)   In…

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Cocote (Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic/Argentina/Germany)

By Jay Kuehner / December 19, 2017

By Jay Kuehner The titular nape of the neck invoked in the word cocote is both a marked corporeal designation and an intimation of something bad about to happen. In Cocote, it represents the site of a beheading and the dreaded aura of imminent retribution. If hacer cogote translates as “to expect something,” then such…

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The Uses of Disenchantment: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

By Adam Nayman / December 19, 2017

By Adam Nayman Accepting the Golden Lion at Venice for The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro magnanimously offered this piece of advice to young filmmakers: “Have faith in whatever you have faith in.” This bit of winner’s-circle tautology was surely not meant to be condescending. As with his fellow awards-ceremony-orator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s observation at…

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The Limits of Control: Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel’s Caniba

By Samuel La France / December 19, 2017

By Samuel La France “The person we love we dream only of eating. That is, we slide down that razor’s edge of ambivalence.”—Hélène Cixous, Love of the wolf To begin with a spoiler, Caniba concludes with a miracle—or at least this is how the film’s subject, the infamous Japanese cannibal Sagawa Issei, describes the sudden…

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Ephraim Asili’s Immeasurable Equations

By Jesse Cumming / September 28, 2017

By Jesse Cumming If it is not here It must be there For somewhere and nowhere Parallels In versions of each other …. where Or even before something came to be —Sun Ra, “Parallels” (1970) Described as “A Video Film on Space and the Music of the Omniverse,” Ephraim Asili’s Points on a Space Age (2009)…

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Those You Call Mutants: The Films of Lucrecia Martel

By Blake Williams / September 28, 2017

By Blake Williams “[Cinemas of the senses] generate worlds of mutating sounds and images that often ebb and flow between the figurative and the abstract, and where the human form, at least as a unified entity, easily loses its function as the main point of reference. One way or another, the cinema of sensation is…

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Ahead of Its Reflection: Ben Russell’s Good Luck

By Phil Coldiron / September 28, 2017

By Phil Coldiron “Now I am in front of a rock. It splits. No, it is no longer split. It is as before. Again it is split in two. No, it is not split at all. It splits once more. Once more no longer split, and this goes on indefinitely. Rock intact, then split, then…

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Rossellini’s War Trilogy: Neorealism or Historical Revisionism?

By Celluloid Liberation Front / June 23, 2017

By Celluloid Liberation Front Two years before Roberto Rossellini started shooting Rome, Open City on January 18, 1945, the famed Italian director had just completed another war trilogy. Inaugurated with the 1941 navy flick The White Ship, followed a year later by A Pilot Returns, and crowned in 1943 with Man of the Cross, the…

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Would You Like to See a Magic Trick?: Basma Alsharif’s Ouroboros and its Contexts

By Phil Coldiron / June 23, 2017

By Phil Coldiron “À quiconque a perdu ce qui ne se retrouve Jamais, jamais!” —Charles Baudelaire On a clear day in the spring of this year, having fallen under the geometric spell of an exhibition of new work by the photographer Sara Cwynar, a young woman found herself on the wrong uptown train and was…

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Dusting the Corners: Luke Fowler’s Restorative Histories

By Michael Sicinski / June 22, 2017

By Michael Sicinski “Why are Luke Fowler’s films so hard to get a grip on?” That’s the question that critic/Berlinale programmer James Lattimer posed regarding the Scottish artist and filmmaker last year in a piece for MUBI’s Notebook. While Lattimer concludes that Fowler’s unique style results in “loose, deliberately fuzzy essays” that give the viewer…

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Electroshock Therapy: Matthew Rankin on The Tesla World Light

By Jason Anderson / June 22, 2017

By Jason Anderson International devotees of Canuck pop-cultural arcana may pride themselves on knowing every single line that Drake ever uttered on Degrassi: The Next Generation, but there’s another treasure that Canadians thus far have been able to keep for themselves. These are the Heritage Minutes, a series of government-made, bilingual 60-second shorts for television…

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Common Boston: Dennis Lehane on Screen

By Sean Rogers / March 24, 2017

By Sean Rogers  “He knows how to pace a story. He isn’t a great novelist. He’s a craftsman, but every once in a while it’s nice to read something long without boring us to death before we get to page 50.” —Roberto Bolaño on Thomas Harris’ Hannibal There’s a shootout at the end of Live…

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Small Things and Big Things: Feng Xiaogang’s I Am Not Madame Bovary

By Shelly Kraicer / March 24, 2017

By Shelly Kraicer  How can a filmmaker like Feng Xiaogang exist in China? His films somehow manage to be both widely popular and ideologically unconventional. For many years—until the onset of the current “wild east” phenomenon, in which a stream of record-breaking blockbusters seems regularly to be emerging from China’s hyped-up movie-production machine—Feng has consistently…

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Orchestrating the Apocalypse: The Survival Horror of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evils

By Christoph Huber / March 20, 2017

“This is a product of the Umbrella Corporation. Our business is life itself. Some side effects may occur.” —commercial announcement lead-in to the end credits of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)

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Unseen Forces: Joshua Bonnetta in Sound and Image

By Michael Sicinski / March 20, 2017

By Michael Sicinski  The first thing you should know about El Mar la mar is that it is not a production of the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab. The new film, which premiered in Berlin’s Forum and won the Caligari Prize, was made by SEL regular J.P. Sniadecki and Canadian-born, Ithaca, NY-based experimentalist Joshua Bonnetta. Yet…

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Something, Everything: Manuela De Laborde on AS WITHOUT SO WITHIN

By Blake Williams / December 19, 2016

By Blake Williams First a title card, clean and neat; the film’s four-word name split and divided between the upper- and lower-centre regions of a large, red rectangle, itself surrounded by a thick black border. Cut to darkness. Mammoth blue grains of emulsion wriggling through near-black crevasses beside veins of softer blues and the occasional…

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The Working Hour: Salomé Lamas’ Eldorado XXI

By Michael Sicinski / December 19, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Salomé Lamas’ experimental feature Eldorado XXI is a film that we might call a “modified ethnography,” in the sense that Lamas has gone to a particular location—La Rinconada y Cerro Lunar settlement in the Peruvian Andes—to observe both the landscape and those individuals who populate it. But as with a number of…

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Super-Ornithologist: João Pedro Rodrigues’ Birdman

By Robert Koehler / December 19, 2016

By Robert Koehler It was a reminder of how much we desperately need stories and storytelling to make sense of the world when I saw one guy punch another guy in the face one evening on the UCLA campus in 1977. The guy getting punched had become all agitated arguing for his favourite book at…

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Artifact Bonfire: Ken Jacobs and Reichstag 9/11

By Daniel Kasman / December 19, 2016

By Daniel Kasman I stopped looking at video footage of September 11, 2001, a long time ago as I find these moving images of expressionistically variable quality and cubist perspective anguished, frightful, and daunting. Two years after the attack, I moved to New York City, and over time I became a part of the city—or…

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From the Other Side: Exiled in Trumpland

By Roberto Minervini / December 19, 2016

I moved to the United States on October 22, 2000, to work as an IT consultant in New York City just a few days before the infamous presidential election that saw George W. Bush lose the popular vote and ultimately “defeat” Al Gore, after the conservative Supreme Court controversially halted the Florida recounts.

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Weapon of Flesh: Shiota Akihiko’s Wet Woman in the Wind and the Return of Roman Porno

By Christoph Huber / September 26, 2016

By Christoph Huber It could have been another quiet day in the country, but it wasn’t meant to be: Shiota Akihiko’s Wet Woman in the Wind starts with an idyllic shot of a forest glade dappled with sunlight, the only hint at the absurd convolutions to come being a chair positioned incongruously at the edge…

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The Wanderer: Eduardo Williams’ The Human Surge

By Leo Goldsmith / September 5, 2016

By Leo Goldsmith From the bottom of the sea, across a city, and into the stratosphere; from the moon, through a deserted city, deep into the forest, and down into a hole in the Earth. Argentinian director Eduardo Williams’ recent short films—Could See a Puma (2011) and I forgot! (2014)—follow strange trajectories both over and…

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Sehnsucht: Ruth Beckermann on The Dreamed Ones

By Andrea Picard / September 4, 2016

By Andréa Picard “This longing, these sighs from soft pillows, I am happy, endlessly happy, to be so filled with this thought. Maybe you will come, maybe you will walk through the door and take from me. I am so ready to give.”—Ingeborg Bachmann, Letters to Felician (July 6, 1945) Cinema is synonymous with longing.…

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Saying Something: The Films of Angela Schanelec

By Blake Williams / September 3, 2016

By Blake Williams “The everyday is platitude (what lags and falls back, the residual life with which our trash cans and cemeteries are filled: scrap and refuse); but this banality is also what is most important. It brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived—in the moment when, lived,…

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The Rules of the Game: Paul Verhoeven’s Elle

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2016

By Adam Nayman In Elle, Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) slaps her adult son in the face, sleeps with a hammer under her pillow, deliberately smashes into her ex-husband’s car and later pepper-sprays him, accidentally crashes her own car, buys a gun, and forces a much younger male employee at her video-game company to show her his…

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The Gag of Realism: Nathan for You

By Benny Safdie / June 27, 2016

By Benny Safdie When you become obsessed with creating realism you create something fake. When you become obsessed with recreating reality you can create something hilarious. This idea hit me hard while watching the “Smokers Allowed” episode of Nathan Fielder’s Comedy Central series Nathan for You. For the uninitiated, Nathan for You plays like a…

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Power of Attorney: Better Call Saul

By Adam Nayman / June 27, 2016

By Adam Nayman “Better Call Saul is the shit and looks like—wait for it—digital Pedro Costa.” —@bmrow, April 17, 2016 Twitter isn’t always right, but when it is, the results can be illuminating. It might seem odd to begin an appreciation of AMC’s Better Caul Saul by talking about lighting; in the great mainstream moving-images…

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El Filibustero: Lav Diaz’s A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery

By Michael Sicinski / June 27, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Certain filmmakers tend to be reduced to memes. Hong Sangsoo, for example, makes the same film over and over again. The late Manoel de Oliveira made stodgy, “old man” films. Guy Maddin is a pastiche artist, Michael Haneke is a scold, Spike Lee lacks discipline, and Lars von Trier is a stunted…

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Field Studies: Mark Lewis’ Invention

By Michael Sicinski / March 21, 2016

By Michael Sicinski Initially talking stock of Mark Lewis’ new feature film Invention, I was reminded of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s remarks in his book Film: The Front Line, 1983 regarding Michael Snow. Rosenbaum compared Snow to Godard, and to another Lewis, that being Jerry. He wrote that Snow, JLG, and The Jer were interested “in fields…

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Star Wars: Laura Poitras’ Astro Noise

By Jerry White / March 21, 2016

By Jerry White “I should rewatch The Man Who Fell to Earth, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and All the President’s Men.”—Laura Poitras, “Berlin Journal,” February 7, 2013 “For those who listen, the stars are singing.”—Edward Snowden Just after making it though Astro Noise, Laura Poitras’ new exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art (whose…

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True Colours: On Margaret Honda’s Style

By Phil Coldiron / March 21, 2016

By Phil Coldiron Margaret Honda’s sudden emergence, nearly 30 years into her artistic career and two decades on from her first museum show (Recto Verso at Los Angeles MOCA), as a deeply intriguing new figure in filmmaking is anomalous in several ways. Her two films, Spectrum Reverse Spectrum (2014) and Color Correction (2015), in their…

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Uniquely American Symptoms: The Manchurian Candidate 

By Adam Nayman / March 21, 2016

By Adam Nayman In the waning days of 2015, public intellectuals as varied as Salman Rushdie, Bill Maher, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar floated (or sky-hooked) the notion that Donald Trump was a “Manchurian Candidate,” despite the fact that none of them—or the many, many pundits and think-piece artists mining the same vein of pop-culture reference—could agree…

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Last Action Hero: Jason Statham Plays It Straight

By Christoph Huber / March 21, 2016

By Christoph Huber “Jason makes everything better.”—Paul Feig, quoted in Esquire’s 2015 Statham cover story It’s difficult to think that we should be grateful to Guy Ritchie for anything, but I guess he deserves credit for casting Jason Statham in his debut, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). Statham has since gone on to…

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Wang Bing Films Souls: On Ta’ang and Other Recent Work

By Shelly Kraicer / March 21, 2016

By Shelly Kraicer The violent convulsions in the Middle East and Africa and grotesque asymmetries of wealth and poverty between north and south have put fundamental pressures on wealthier, conservative, defensive societies of Europe and North America. Refugees are everyone’s problem; they represent the fulcrum around which debates on the shape of our evolving societies…

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Sundance 2016: Good Grief!

By Blake Williams / March 21, 2016

By Blake Williams Two heavily pulled quotes from Sundance 2016’s opening press conference, both spilled from the mouth of the festival’s founder and director Robert Redford—“I’m not into the Oscars,” and later, when asked what he was most looking forward to at this year’s edition, “The wrap party”—were endearingly and unexpectedly clear-eyed enough (considering the…

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Mother of All of Us: Ida Lupino, The Filmaker

By Christoph Huber / December 21, 2015

By Christoph Huber “I see myself, in the years ahead, directing or producing or both. I see myself developing new talent, which would be furiously interesting for me. For I love talent. Love to watch it. Love to help it. Am more genuinely interested in the talent of others than I am in my own.”…

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Landscape Suicide: The Films of Daïchi Saïto

By Jordan Cronk / December 21, 2015

By Jordan Cronk In his February 1963 essay “Towards a New Narrative Film Form,” Gregory J. Markopoulos proposed a radical conception of audio-visual harmony to be achieved via dissociative editing and “integrated frame adjacencies,” which together would accelerate the classic montage style while defusing its horizontal progression. This technique would first be realized in Markopoulos’…

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Leeching Upon the Lifeblood of the Real: Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers

By Leo Goldsmith / September 22, 2015

By Leo Goldsmith Ben Rivers’ recent short, Things (2014), is an intimate tour of the filmmaker’s own domestic space and personal effects. Including photographs and movie stills, squirrels in the yard and trinkets on the shelves, beloved tomes ex libris Ben Rivers, and sound samples of Andy Kaufman and a National Geographic flexi-disc of a…

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Archive Fever: The Films of Pietro Marcello

By Blake Williams / September 22, 2015

By Blake Williams As is true for many of the more interesting Italian filmmakers currently working outside of the country’s “thriving,” increasingly globalized film industry, Pietro Marcello’s films liberally fuse a range of vérité and metaphysical elements to contemplate the evanescence of pre-modernized and rural culture. Introspective, class-conscious, and sensitive to (art) history, Marcello can…

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Eternal Damnation: Arturo Ripstein’s Bleak Street

By Jose Teodoro / September 22, 2015

By José Teodoro There is no such thing as ambient sunlight in Bleak Street. The sun’s rays descend from high above, diffused by a latticework of electrical cables, metal stairs, frayed tarpaulin, and urban flotsam, or slam down in hard sheets through a grid of tall buildings and concrete canopies. A swaying, phantom-like camera, deepening…

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In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: The Films of Patricio Guzmán 

By Max Nelson / June 23, 2015

By Max Nelson At one point in his new film The Pearl Button, Patricio Guzmán visits a friend’s painting studio and asks the artist to unroll one of her current projects: an immense, to-scale cutout model of Chile. The country is so long and narrow, Guzmán recalls, that it could never fit on a single…

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Joyce Wieland: Word of Mouth

By Samuel La France / June 23, 2015

By Samuel La France On the closing night of this year’s Images Festival, sisters Velvet and Lady Nite (collectively, 10,000 Horses) took the stage at St. Anne’s Parish Hall to score a trio of Joyce Wieland films with their “electro torch” compositions. The duo’s synths and ukulele transformed the soundtracks for Water Sark (1965) and…

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Implications of a Totality: Frames for the Films of Joseph Bernard

By Phil Coldiron / June 23, 2015

By Phil Coldiron In the decade spanning 1975 to 1985, visual artist Joseph Bernard completed more than 100 films in Super 8mm. Frustrated by a lack of funds, materials, and attention, he withdrew from filmmaking and, ultimately, public art production entirely, though he remained on the faculty at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, retiring in…

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Blackhat, White Noise: Michael Mann’s System of Objects

By Andrew Tracy / March 26, 2015

By Andrew Tracy There’s a line very early on in Jonathan Rayner’s recent monograph The Cinema of Michael Mann: Vice and Vindication that stands in marked contrast to the staid though commendably solid study that follows. Comparing Mann’s oeuvre to the framework of genre revisionism that characterized much of the ’70s “New Hollywood” American cinema,…

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A Perfect Game: Kevin Jerome Everson’s Park Lanes

By Michael Sicinski / March 26, 2015

By Michael Sicinski Kevin Jerome Everson’s latest film, Park Lanes, is a real piece of work. By this I mean a few different things. For starters, I think it’s clearly one of the most significant achievements of his career. It’s also a film that’s fundamentally about labour—the conditions of its accomplishment and the patience required…

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Dancing on the Edge: Derek Jarman’s Will You Dance With Me?

By Max Nelson / March 26, 2015

By Max Nelson Derek Jarman’s quarrel with Thatcherism derived from all the causes one would expect—and some, perhaps, that one wouldn’t. Reading and watching the artist’s varied critiques of the Conservative prime ministry that ruled Britain for much of his working life reveals that there were always several Jarmans living in improbable harmony with each…

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Of Time and the River: Mapping the Cinema of Luo Li

By Shelly Kraicer / March 26, 2015

  By Shelly Kraicer Over the last six years, Luo Li has established himself as one of the most interesting young Canadian directors on the international festival circuit, and one of the most promising Chinese independent directors to emerge in the last decade. Marked by narrative playfulness, implicitly subversive formal innovation, and elegant, beautifully crafted…

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The Funniest Joke in the World: On Rick Alverson’s Entertainment

By Phil Coldiron / March 26, 2015

By Phil Coldiron When viewed from within the bounds of the traditional, psychologically involved viewer, Entertainment, Rick Alverson’s second mature feature following The Comedy (2012), plays as the darkly comic passion of a man circling the drain leading down from one symbolic scene of death to another; an unpleasant journey, but still, a journey. It…

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Dead Meat: Bruno Dumont’s P’tit Quinquin

By Michael Sicinski / December 18, 2014

By Michael Sicinski P’tit Quinquin, the four-part miniseries that Bruno Dumont made for the ARTE network, had its world premiere earlier this year at Cannes as a 200-minute theatrical feature before screening to a record audience on French television in September. (It screened as a special presentation in the Fortnight, sort of a P’tit Quinquinzaine,…

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Of Human Bondage: Peter Strickland on The Duke of Burgundy

By Jose Teodoro / December 18, 2014

By José Teodoro Given the painstakingly retro stylings of its opening title sequence (with ostentatious credits for lingerie and perfumes, the latter attributed to one Je Suis Gizelle) and the imprimatur of producers Ben Wheatley, Andy Starke, and Amy Jump, there are at first reasons to suspect that The Duke of Burgundy will keep its…

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The Face of Another: Christian Petzold’s Phoenix

By Adam Nayman / December 17, 2014

By Adam Nayman Nina Hoss has one of the great faces in cinema, so it’s perverse to see it swaddled in gauze at the beginning of Phoenix. Strapped into the passenger seat of a car being driven over the Swiss border into Germany at the end of World War II, her Nelly Lenz is a…

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Who Can Tell of the Heroic Deeds of Israel?: Nadav Lapid’s The Kindergarten Teacher

By Jay Kuehner / December 17, 2014

By Jay Kuehner. Films are often described as being “poetic,” but beyond the suggestion of a certain undefined lyricism, it is not entirely clear just what this means. Unrequited love, for example, might be given supple expression through an ambient absence, or the cruel passage of time might be suggested by the fixity of the…

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Don’t Look Back: Life and Death and the Films of Mary Helena Clark

By Phil Coldiron / December 17, 2014

By Phil Coldiron Why am I finding it so hard to write about Mary Helena Clark’s films? There’s something to their poetry… But to even start a claim like that, we have to have a working definition of poetry in (relation to?) the cinema, for now; right now. Because we’ve all finally turned our backs…

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A Place Beyond the Pines: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the Missing Pieces, and the Legacy of Brutality

By Jordan Cronk / September 16, 2014

By Jordan Cronk It’s an odd feeling—in fact, it borders on the disconcerting. Could this be it, the conclusion of the Twin Peaks saga, more than 24 years after ABC first broadcast the show’s pilot episode on an otherwise unexceptional Sunday evening in the spring of 1990? Seemingly so much and so little has transpired…

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Going for Baroque: The Films of Eugène Green

By Blake Williams / September 5, 2014

By Blake Williams To get it out of the way at the outset: Eugène Green, now 67 years of age, began making films when he was 53, all of them built around and deeply concerned with a set of traditions belonging to the arts of the Baroque period, particularly its theatre. His body of work…

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Imaginary Love: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2014

By Adam Nayman In 2014, in a fictional Canada, Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature Mommy doesn’t get much attention at all… It’s a fine line between utopia and dystopia. To say that the world (of cinema) would be a better place without Xavier Dolan might be pushing it. But would it really be worse than the…

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The Noise Made By People: The Films of Martín Rejtman

By Max Nelson / September 1, 2014

By Max Nelson It would be easy to mistake Two Shots Fired, the new feature from Argentine filmmaker Martín Rejtman, for a less original film than it is. Considered in isolation, its stubborn, deliberate anti-expressiveness—it concerns a short spell in the life of three troubled members of an upper-class family whose faces, voices and bodies…

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City to City 2014 and Beyond: TIFF’s Uneven Seoul Patch

By Michael Sicinski / September 1, 2014

By Michael Sicinski There’s really no point in discussing the Toronto International Film Festival’s City to City program as such. While the festival’s promotional materials call it “a snapshot of where’s hot right now,” it’s also a way for TIFF to curry favour with certain organizations and governmental bodies involved in international film production and…

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Declarations of Independence: A Conversation Between Alex Ross Perry and Joel Potrykus

By Cinema Scope / June 25, 2014

I first encountered Joel Potrykus’ Ape (2012) when I was a jury member for the Filmmakers of the Present competition at Locarno. As it was the sole American narrative film in the selection, my curiosity was piqued before the festival even began. Ape was a revelation, and the jury agreed: we awarded Joel the Best…

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Deborah Stratman: Safe and Sound

By Samuel La France / June 25, 2014

By Samuel La France “Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself.”—Samuel Butler Since I’ve never lived in an earthquake zone—or a war zone, for that matter—the subtle and persistent tremors of Deborah Stratman’s installation Tactical Uses of a Belief in the Unseen (2), mounted at Toronto’s Mercer Union during the 25th Images Festival,…

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Each Memory Creates Its Own Legend: The Films of John Torres

By Max Nelson / June 25, 2014

By Max Nelson John Torres has the sensibility of a romantic poet, the mode of address of a personal essayist, and an anthropologist’s curious, lingering, critical eye. His four features—all shot on miniscule budgets with the help of modest grants, cheap digital equipment, and, in one case, expired film stock—count among the central achievements of…

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The Conversation: Stephanie Barber’s DAREDEVILS

By Max Goldberg / March 20, 2014

By Max Goldberg “The only truth is face to face, the poem whose words become your mouth”—Frank O’Hara Perhaps the only rule of Stephanie Barber’s otherwise unruly art is that words not be taken for granted. “There’s a certain faith that people put in language,” reflects one of the characters in DAREDEVILS, and Barber makes…

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Dreams of Light: The Cinema of Amit Dutta

By Max Nelson / March 20, 2014

By Max Nelson Six minutes into Nainsukh (2010), Amit Dutta’s dreamy, intoxicating tribute to the life and work of the brilliant 18th-century Indian miniaturist painter, two worlds collide. As Nainsukh and his father, also a painter, sit bent over their work in an open-air second-storey studio, the camera’s attention begins to wander, settling first on…

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Man from the Southwest: The Brutish Cinema of José Campusano

By Quintin / March 20, 2014

By Quintín 3D, a charming little comedy/documentary by Rosendo Rui, recently had its international premiere in Rotterdam, and the film itself transpires at another film festival: the 2013 edition of the Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente de Cosquín (FICIC), held at the Cosquín resort in the Argentine province of Córdoba. Loosely centred around a love…

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Paolo Sorrentino: A Medium Talent

By Michael Sicinski / March 20, 2014

By Michael Sicinski “Medium talent!” —Bill Murray, to Chevy Chase at the end of their 1977 fistfight, backstage at Saturday Night Live 1. Not unlike such melodramatic European specialties as the Transavantguardia and Robbie Williams, Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino makes a lot more sense in the moment than he does in immediate retrospect, and it…

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Game Theories: Corneliu Porumboiu and the New Romanian Wake

By Jordan Cronk / March 20, 2014

By Jordan Cronk Since reaching its height of visibility following the release of the Palme d’Or winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), the Romanian New Wave has charted an oblique, fascinating course away from the spotlight. The rising tide of interest prompted not only by Cristian Mungiu’s breakthrough abortion drama but also…

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Hardbodies and Soul: The Professional Wrestler as Actor

By Adam Nayman / March 20, 2014

By Adam Nayman Wrapping up the Toronto International Film Festival in Film Comment last fall, editor Gavin Smith praised Philomena and confused the Yucatan for the Philippines before bestowing his seal of approval on Oculus, a mildly effective American horror movie by Mike Flanagan about a haunted mirror. Notwithstanding Smith’s assertion that it features “the…

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What is Boyhood?

By Gabe Klinger / March 20, 2014

By Gabe Klinger Shot from 2002 to 2013, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood charts a dozen years in the life of a family: Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), Samantha (Lorelei Linklater), Olivia (Patricia Arquette), and Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke). Related mainly from Mason Jr.’s point of view as he and the actor who plays him ages from six…

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The Great Depression: Jerry Lewis’ Last Movies

By Christoph Huber / December 12, 2013

By Christoph Huber One of the highlights of the year was the great (35mm!) Jerry Lewis retrospective presented by the Viennale and the Austrian Film Museum, which confirmed him as one of modern cinema’s key auteurs. Still, there remains the great divide. By this I do not mean obvious, yet excruciatingly opaque distinctions (Jerry the…

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An Internal Memo: Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA

By Michael Sicinski / December 12, 2013

By Michael Sicinski To say that Gianfranco Rosi’s Sacro GRA was a surprise winner at this year’s Venice Film Festival is something of an understatement. The film became the first documentary ever to win the Golden Lion, and was singled out by jury president Bernardo Bertolucci for its “poetic force,” and its “Franciscan” regard for…

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Flicker Flicker Flicker Blam Pow Pow: Five Films by Jodie Mack

By Phil Coldiron / December 12, 2013

By Phil Coldiron Six year ago, writing in these pages on the films of Michael Robinson, Michael Sicinski raised a crucial question, one for which he offered Robinson’s work as a possible answer, and one which, it seems to me, has only grown in urgency in the frequently disastrous years since: “How can experimental cinema…

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A Truck Full of Turkeys: Thoughts on Joaquim Pinto’s What Now? Remind Me

By Francisco Ferreira / September 15, 2013

By Francisco Ferreira Where do films come from? I won’t fixate too long on this question, as no one is qualified to answer it. There are films that are more unexpected than others, that’s for sure. Sometimes, there are even films that seem to have come from nothing, that sprout up like stalks of wild…

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Temps mort: Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive

By Andrew Tracy / August 30, 2013

By Andrew Tracy “I’m sick of it—these zombies, what they’ve done to the world, their fear of their own imaginations,” laments the vampiric Adam (Tom Hiddleston) via videophone to his similarly succubal, Tangier-dwelling lady love Eve (Tilda Swinton) early in Only Lovers Left Alive. Zeitgeist be damned, nevertheless it’s fitting that the predominant pop-cultural ghouls…

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Master Shots: Tsai Ming-liang’s Late Digital Period

By Blake Williams / August 30, 2013

By Blake Williams The title of Tsai Ming-liang’s tenth feature Stray Dogs bears a fairly conspicuous resemblance to a key metaphor from Laozi’s 6th-century Chinese philosophical text Tao Te Ching, which allegorizes man’s relationship with the heavens as that of a straw dog and the one who created it. Literally a dog-shaped figure made out…

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Pilgrim’s Progress: Manakamana

By Jay Kuehner / August 30, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Pilgrimage is premised on the idea that the sacred is not entirely immaterial, but that there is a geography of spiritual power. Pilgrimage walks a delicate line between the spiritual and the material in its emphasis on the story and its setting: though the search is for spirituality, it is pursued in…

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The End of Cinema: La última película

By Phil Coldiron / August 28, 2013

By Phil Coldiron What comes at the end of cinema? Not what comes after cinema—a good question for marketing gurus like Spielberg and Lucas and Cameron to lock themselves in a room and argue over until they expire, choking on their own hot air—but right there at the end, in death tranquil or terrifying or…

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Women Under the Influence: Hong Sangsoo’s Nobody’s Daughter Haewon & Our Sunhi

By Jordan Cronk / August 28, 2013

By Jordan Cronk As an agent for acclimation, alcohol is one of our most proven resources. In the cinema of Hong Sangsoo, it’s less a casual commodity than a conduit for conducive social interaction, a property of both emotionally collateral and physically direct engagement. The characters portrayed in the prolific South Korean auteur’s work drink…

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A Liar’s Autobiography: The Return of Alejandro Jodorowsky

By Quintin / August 28, 2013

By Quintín More than 800,000 people follow Alejandro Jodorowsky on Twitter. Every day these lucky people get a couple of dozen pearls of wisdom (in Spanish) such as, “If you hate walls, you should learn to build doors,” or “The Visible longs for the Invisible, the Invisible longs for the Visible. You are also what…

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Athens Decathlon: TIFF 2013 City to City

By Adam Nayman / August 28, 2013

By Adam Nayman You can probably trace the idea—or at least the exact etymology—of the so-called “Greek Weird Wave” back to a 2011 Guardian article by Steve Rose. In it, the author sagely mused that “the world’s most messed-up country is making the world’s most messed-up cinema.” Of course, the movies that prompted Rose’s declaration—Yorgos…

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Black, White, and Giallo: Forzani & Cattet’s The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears

By Jason Anderson / August 28, 2013

By Jason Anderson Any viewer in need of a primer on the semiotics of the giallo film will be well-served by the opening moments of The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears. In commencing their second full-length effort after their similarly arresting debut Amer (2009), the Belgian husband-and-wife team of Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet…

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Pretending That Life Has No Meaning: Paul Schrader’s The Canyons

By Phil Coldiron / June 26, 2013

By Phil Coldiron It starts with a look. And then another, and another, and before you know it 90 minutes have gone by in a rush of looks, because that’s all anyone does in Los Angeles—they look. The fact of it is that most of this looking is at the back of someone else’s car…

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Sex, Death, and Geometry: A Conversation Between Alain Guiraudie and João Pedro Rodrigues on L’inconnu du lac

By Cinema Scope / June 24, 2013

João Pedro Rodrigues: I’ve watched L’inconnu du lac twice, and now realize that the film takes place over ten days. Alain Guiraudie: Yes, you’re right. Rodrigues: Only on the ninth day do you omit the establishing shot of the parking lot, which introduces all the other nine days. Was this shot already planned when you…

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Danger Zone: FX’s Archer

By Adam Nayman / June 24, 2013

By Adam Nayman Pam: Speaking of, you see the bulge on that towel boy? Man, if I was you, I’d be in this spa 25/8. Cheryl: Yeah, but then I wouldn’t get to hang out with everybody at work. Pam: You hate everybody at work. Cheryl: I know. It’s the only thing that gets me…

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The Poetry of Confined Quarters: Ramon Zürcher’s The Strange Little Cat

By Michael Sicinski / June 24, 2013

By Michael Sicinski The first five shots of Ramon Zürcher’s debut film The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen) serve as a kind of miniature map for this relatively short (72-minute), highly unusual work, neatly outlining the spatial compression and sonic misdirection that characterizes its aesthetic approach throughout. (Though in fact, any fragment of Cat…

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One-Man Band: A Conversation with Matt Johnson About The Dirties

By Cinema Scope / June 24, 2013

By Calum Marsh “This movie’s gonna be so good,” raves a zealous teenaged filmmaker to two young kids at the beginning of The Dirties. “It’s set in the club from Irreversible [2002].” The children are understandably baffled by the reference, and their reaction is genuine—they don’t know they’re acting in a film at all. The…

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Fire in Every Shot: Wang Bing’s Three Sisters

By Thom Andersen / March 21, 2013

By Thom Andersen “Films have no interest unless one finds something that burns somewhere within the shot.”—Jean-Marie Straub, Cahiers du Cinéma, October 1984, p. 34 Wang Bing’s Three Sisters (2012) tells a simple story. Three sisters, aged four, six, and ten, live like orphans in Yunnan province, in the village of Xiyangtang (elevation: 3,500 feet;…

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One Horizontal, One Vertical: Some Preliminary Observations on Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster

By Shelly Kraicer / March 21, 2013

By Shelly Kraicer The good news about Wong Kar-wai’s new film is that, following the debacle that was My Blueberry Nights (2007), the good Wong is back. The Grandmaster not only banishes the (thankfully now easily forgotten) memory of Blueberry, but also manages to continue building on themes and forms from Wong’s previous films while…

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An Ursine Halfabet: Denis Côté’s Vic+Flo ont vu un ours

By Michael Sicinski / March 21, 2013

By Michael Sicinski In Denis Côté’s Bestiaire (2012), you might have really seen a bear. That’s because it took place in a zoo. As for his latest, au contraire; the grizzlies are not really there. The title’s both a metaphor and a clue: the phrasing, like a picture book, implies that we should take a…

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Opening the Gates of Night: Jean-Claude Brisseau’s La fille du nulle part

By Boris Nelepo / December 16, 2012

By Boris Nelepo “I love to watch the stars. It’s one of those simple things that give me at least a remote idea of infinity along with some great poetry,” the ghost philosopher says in Jean-Claude Brisseau’s À l’aventure (2008), and Brisseau shares with his characters that same longing for the ineffable, as well as…

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A Murderer Cannot Avoid Death: Thoughts on Manoel de Oliveira’s Gebo and the Shadow

By Francisco Ferreira / December 16, 2012

By Francisco Ferreira In an interview published in the Venice film festival press kit, Manoel de Oliveira tells the story of how he came to adapt the theatre play Gebo and the Shadow. A friend asked Oliveira why he hadn’t made a film about poverty during the current time of economic crisis. Oliveira replied that…

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Role Models: The Films of Matías Piñeiro

By Quintin / September 11, 2012

Like most of his colleagues in recent Argentinean cinema, Matías Piñeiro is a graduate from the Universidad del Cine, and, like many of them, works outside the national funding system. Born in 1982 in Buenos Aires, Piñeiro, despite three features (El hombre robado, 2007; Todos mienten, 2009; Viola, 2012) and a 40-minute film commissioned for…

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Burru’s Abominable Dialectic: Nicolas Rey’s autrement, la Molussie

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2012

In composing this essay on Nicolas Rey’s latest film, I have opted to follow a principle similar to the one that gives his film its overall shape. The essay consists of six semi-autonomous sections, which I have assigned an order using a random-number generating system. There were also additional sections that, according to the randomizing…

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Blood and Thunder: Enter the Leviathan

By Phil Coldiron / September 11, 2012

Let’s start with a coincidence. The title of Part I, Chap. 1 of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan: “Of Sense.” The name of the Harvard project headed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, whose new film, made in collaboration with Véréna Paravel, shares a title with Hobbes’ seminal work of political philosophy: the Sensory Ethnography Lab. This isn’t to say…

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This Is Not an Omnibus: The Jeonju Digital Project 2012

By Michael Sicinski / June 24, 2012

By Michael Sicinski Twelve years on, the Jeonju International Film Festival’s Digital Project is only getting stronger. This unique endeavour, whose history and raison d’être has been amply chronicled elsewhere (notably by James Bell in Sight & Sound,), remains impossible to pin down. While the JDP has generally remained focused on Asian directors, the project…

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Eight Footnotes on a Brief Description of Footnotes to a House of Love, and Other Films by Laida Lertxundi

By Phil Coldiron / June 24, 2012

By Phil Coldiron …A group of young people1 in the California2 desert.3 A radio.4 A house that’s little more than the idea of a house.5 A woman6 crosses a room, passes by the camera,7 says, “You’re leaving me…”8   1. What does it mean to make youth cinema in America today? While Hollywood aged parabolically…

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Get Out of the Car: David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis

By Adam Nayman / June 24, 2012

By José Teodoro and Adam Nayman Cosmopolis opens with a hubcap-level pan across a fleet of white stretch limousines, objects of ostentatious wealth, absurdly oversized and ugly, yet invisible in their anonymity and ubiquity, luxurious yet barely able to move through a teeming city’s daily traffic. A great deal of David Cronenberg’s film, which spans…

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The Systematically Incomplete Dialectical Process, or, Articulations of Structural Mythopoeia in the Para-Classical Realm for the Metrickally Measured Linguistical Motivics and Deeply Felt Cinematic Appoggiatura of Mr. David Gatten, Gentleman by Michael Sicinski

By Michael Sicinski / December 20, 2011

By Michael Sicinski 1. David Gatten’s cinema is probably the clearest articulation of a broader tendency in contemporary experimental cinema. Filmmakers working in this mode are equally influenced by Romanticist and Formalist traditions. Personal expressivity and objective rigour are not so much stances as they are strategies, poles along which to suspend oneself in a…

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We Can’t Go Home Again: Nicholas Ray’s Film Maudit Restored

By Gabe Klinger / September 28, 2011

By Gabe Klinger “We lived by night, shooting and editing our bigger than life experiences in a lonely place on dangerous ground.” —Tom Farrell “Bless the family that loves together…Bless the family that laughs and cries together… Together…”—“Bless the Family” by Norm Zamcheck, written for We Can’t Go Home Again Nicholas Ray, eternal auteurist pet…

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Random Notes on a Projection of The Clock by Christian Marclay at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 4:32 pm, July 28, 2011-5:02 pm, July 29, 2011

By Thom Andersen / September 28, 2011

By Thom Andersen 1. The Clock is certainly dumb: a 24-hour movie made entirely from other movies in which the depicted screen time corresponds precisely to the actual time of the screening with plenty of clock inserts and shots in which clocks appear, sometimes incidentally. I’m sure I’m not the first to ask, why didn’t…

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Between Two Eyes: Four Emergent Avant-Garde Film/Videomakers for the New Decade

By Michael Sicinski / June 28, 2011

By Michael Sicinski One of the difficulties of writing about experimental film and video is that there aren’t as many opportunities as there ought to be to spotlight filmmakers who we might call, for lack of a better term, developing talent. Magazines like this one (of which, sadly, there are few) customarily produce feature articles…

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Let the Readings Fly: Jiang Wen Reaches for the Mainstream

By Shelly Kraicer / June 28, 2011

By Shelly Kraicer If you happen to be a Chinese film producer, China looks like the Promised Land, if not the Wild West—a place that’s available, for the taking, with its doors wide open. (Though if you’re an activist in the marginal non-governmental sphere these days, the picture looks quite different).  2010 box-office numbers continued…

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We Need to Talk About Terry: A Roundtable on The Tree of Life

By Cinema Scope / June 28, 2011

By Mark Peranson, Michael Sicinski, Alan Franey, José Teodoro, Tom Charity, C.W. Winter, Olivier Père, Robert Koehler, Olaf Möller, Adam Nayman, Gabe Klinger, Jason Anderson, and Andrew Tracy   A tantalizing rumour, never confirmed, spread around Cannes that Thierry Frémaux instructed his jury that if they did not award Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life…

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Worlds of Possibilities: Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf, and Christoph Hochhäusler’s Dreileben

By Dennis Lim / March 12, 2011

By Dennis Lim After a decade-long procession of HBO critical darlings, in the wake of Olivier Assayas’ Carlos and now Todd Haynes’ Mildred Pierce, received wisdom holds that television—or more precisely, its funding structures and serial configurations—represents our best hope for narrative filmmaking. Such pronouncements tend to assert the benefits of duration and scope, the…

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The Party’s Over: 2010 in TV

By Adam Nayman / March 12, 2011

By Adam Nayman First things first: the funniest and probably finest episode of television produced in 2010—on par with much the Americans produced last year for the cinema—was “Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday,” the highlight of the second (and final) season of Party Down. Of all the great things about this series following a Hollywood catering company…

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When the Salt Attacks the Sea: The Films of Mohammad Rasoulof

By Michael Sicinski / March 12, 2011

By Michael Sicinski The Islamic Republic of Iran v. Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof: A Developing Story Over the past month, there have been a number of promising indications that the heinous, unjust situation in which Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi are ensnared might change. Although at this point most members of the…

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Features | All Points West

By Max Goldberg / December 17, 2010

By Max Goldberg Comparing three American municipalities in his 1960 book The Image of the City, Kevin Lynch found that Los Angeles lacked certain qualities of “legibility”: “[The city] seemed to be hard to envision or conceptualize as a whole.” Several generations of authors and artists have taken that bait. Cinema’s particular hold on the…

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Features | Cast Glances: Thomas Comerford’s The Indian Boundary Line and the Contemporary Landscape Film

By Tom McCormack / September 21, 2010

By Tom McCormack Although he has been making a name for himself as a director of exquisitely quiet, meditative avant-garde films since 1997, Thomas Comerford has remained a relatively unsung figure on the experimental scene, partly because he often prefers to bypass film festivals and instead organize DIY tours to various microcinemas around the US.…

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Features | Unchained Melodies: The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector and It Felt Like a Kiss

By Thom Andersen / September 21, 2010

By Thom Andersen “Is it dumb enough?” Phil Spector asked Sonny Bono as they listened to a playback of “Da Doo Ron Ron” one day in March 1963. In other words, is this record something you can understand in a flash but listen to forever? Is it both art and kitsch? It’s a profound question,…

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Features | The Poetics of Departure: Kurosawa at 100

By Andrew Tracy / June 18, 2010

By Andrew Tracy Gauging an artist’s relevance is always a highly subjective affair, particularly as there are any number of ways in which such measurement can be made. The lure of the new—or rather, the previously undiscovered or underappreciated—has been a potent force in cinephilia over the last several years, yielding up scores of hosanna-ready…

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Features | Listen to Britain: On the Outskirts with Ben Rivers

By Michael Sicinski / June 18, 2010

By Michael Sicinski The cinema of Ben Rivers is one of the most bracing, refreshing new developments to occur in the experimental film world in recent years. This seems rather incontestable. Rivers’ work has been showcased by major international festivals such as Rotterdam, Oberhausen, Jeonju, and the Viennale, and in Film Comment’s recent poll of…

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Features | Taking Time: Peter Schreiner Returns

By Christoph Huber / March 17, 2010

By Christoph Huber “Making films,” says Peter Schreiner, “is a means of talking. Maybe even a substitute for talking. I’ve always had—and still do—a problem with the imprecision of language.” It is the summer of 2009, and we are sitting in the garden of his family’s inherited house in Grinzing, Vienna’s nice, green suburb famous…

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Features | A Matter of Life and Death: Lu Chuan and Post-Zhuxuanlu Cinema

By Shelly Kraicer / December 16, 2009

By Shelly Kraicer Sometimes it really is necessary to read Chinese movies through a political prism. Often this is a lazy, worn interpretive strategy that too easily reduces complex, allusive art to manifestos of resistance: Lou Ye’s Spring Fever, “banned in China!!!”, is a film opposing Beijing’s dictators, goes the most recent version on this…

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Features | Songs of Innocence & Experience: Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson and the Post-Boomer

By Michael Sicinski / December 16, 2009

By Michael Sicinski Two of this year’s most spectacular auteur-driven releases—“spectacular” used not as an interchangeable superlative, but in the specific sense that the films generate spectacle through unique technical means—have been met with strikingly different expectations, and notably different responses, although both (owing to the wonders of the Internet age) had to put forth…

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Features | Mariano Llinás and Other Argentinean Species: Beyond Official Cinema

By Quintin / September 12, 2009

By Quintín In 1999, as a jury member for Antorchas, a now-defunct private foundation that awarded endowments for the arts and the sciences in Argentina, I was reading a huge pile of scripts from filmmakers applying for something like $10,000 US in funding. One of those scripts, written by one Mariano Llinás, was completely different…

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Features | The Road to In the Loop: British Satire-Sitcom-Cinema

By Henry Miller / September 12, 2009

By Henry K. Miller War was the first cause of modern British satire. In June 1959 Tom Lehrer, midway through a series of bookings in London, headed north to Cambridge to attend the first night of that year’s undergraduate revue, put on by the Footlights Club at the Arts Theatre. This was no ordinary student…

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Features | Agrarian Utopias/Dystopias: The New Nonfiction

By Robert Koehler / September 12, 2009

By Robert Koehler In the brave new world of films that have escaped from the categories of “narrative” and “documentary,” the matter at hand isn’t one of—to use another quotable word—“reality.” Indeed, the shattering of the simpler notions of reality is a crucial function of these films, since they’re in part expressions of doubt that…

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Kinbrody and the Ceejays: Richard Brody’s Everything Is Cinema

By Bill Krohn / March 22, 2009

By Bill Krohn So this is all treacherous old Shade could say about Zembla—my Zembla? While shaving his stubble off? Strange…strange… — Pale Fire Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard by Richard Brody is a chance for a writer of capsule film reviews for The New Yorker to go after bigger game,…

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