Features

Against Interest: Pierre Clémenti, Filmmaker

We are moved by films because, briefly, deeply, they convince us that the past isn’t irretrievable, that life isn’t forever slipping away. But in his usual manner, Clémenti immediately complicates this, narrowing the perspective to an actor’s: “And at the very moment you’re playing the part, you become the person who will one day look back at yourself.”
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Telling the Truth Can Be Dangerous Business: The Overdue Enshrinement of Elaine May

It’s not as if Elaine May wasn’t a beloved figure in American popular culture for most of her life. Her successful pairing with Mike Nichols as an innovative improv comedy team in the late ’50s may have been short-lived—the duo broke up at the height of their success in 1961—but is regularly cited as one of the most influential and well-remembered comedy acts the US has ever known.
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Can the Centre Hold?: The Films of Adirley Queirós

The periphery is always the centre in the films of Adirley Queirós, whether in terms of the people and places at the focus of his attention or the off-centre stylistic means he employs to explore their tribulations, and, by extension, those of Brazil.
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Endless Night: “Dark Glasses” and the Remnants of Dario Argento’s Mad Poetry of Terror

Everybody is staring into the sky, wearing special glasses or holding up black strips to protect their eyes. She stops at a park, joining a small group of people, putting on her sunglasses. Dogs bark as the light dims—they are awaiting a solar eclipse. “Not just dogs, every animal is afraid,” a man explains to his kid. “Even our ancestors, a long time ago, feared the eclipse.” His wife adds, “They thought the disappearance of the sun meant the end of the world.”
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Waking Dreams: On the Films of Mikhaël Hers

In all art there seems to be some principle of recurrence related to the repetitions of nature that conditions our sense of time—not just the passage of the seasons, but also the cycles of light and darkness, of waking and sleeping life. The films of Mikhaël Hers are no exception, though as with most any artist, he has his predilections.
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Don’t Look Now: The Righteous Evolution of Adam McKay

he room,” Adam McKay played the more comfortable role of American comedy’s slouchy, politically savvy older brother. Improbable as his progressive-daddy glow up of the past few years might seem, the Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder, former Saturday Night Live head writer, and Academy Award-winning writer-director planted the seed of his transformation early in his predominantly unserious comedy fare.
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Higher Power: Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta and the Legacy of Nunsploitation

The pear of anguish is a medieval torture instrument, whose spoon-like metal segments spread at the turn of a screw in its centre. Also known as the “choke pear” because it was often applied to the victim’s mouth, it could be inserted into any orifice.
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Too Good at Goodbyes: The Souvenir Part II and Joanna Hogg’s Cinema of Memory

By Katherine Connell Joanna Hogg chases authenticity. Her reluctance to call “Cut,” instead letting a scene’s action carry on via languid takes, static camerawork, and unscripted dialogue, reflects her intuitive sense of how small but telling slips within the typically dull cadences of British upper-middle-class social chatter can reveal roiling undercurrents of feeling. Yet while…
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The Flower and the Braided Rope: Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog

By Michael Sicinski Formalist though I may be, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate any given film from its association with Netflix. This is especially the case during awards season, as Netflix is throwing away obscene amounts of money on tacky gift boxes for critics and Academy members. The lavishly illustrated catalogues that depict every…
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In a Year of Six Kostrovs

“The fact that at one time there was a camera in front of some people, which made them act in a certain way, and everything they may have thought or said or done at that time no longer has any importance. It is dead and gone; the only thing that counts is what remains, and what remains is a crystallization of it…It’s the moment when you pass from the stage of raw recorded reality into the dimensions of a film..."
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Trouble Up North: Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 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 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 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 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 “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

“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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 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

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

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

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 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

“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

“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

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

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

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

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…

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  “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  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  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  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 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 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 “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 “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 “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 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 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 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 “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 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 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 “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 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 “[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 “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 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 “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 “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 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  “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  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

“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  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 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 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 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 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

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 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 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 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 “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 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 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 “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 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 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 “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 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 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 “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 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 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 “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 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 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 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 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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