Articles & Reviews

On The Immigrant & The Grand Budapest Hotel [Tablet]
“The Jew is the one whom other men consider a Jew,” according to Jean-Paul Sartre’s existential reasoning. Thus anti-Semitism can exist without Jews. So can philo-Semitism, and so can the nebulous category known as Jewish-themed films. Read more…  Read more – ‘On The Immigrant & The Grand Budapest Hotel [Tablet]’.
On Ida [Tablet]
“So. You are a Jewish nun,” a cynical Polish Communist greets her teenaged niece with just a touch of sarcasm. Read more… Read more – ‘On Ida [Tablet]’.
On Sigmar Polke’s films [Artforum]
Great film installations—Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho, 1993, say, or Christian Marclay’s The Clock, 2010—use the fact of motion pictures to hypostatize time. Lesser ones raise questions about narrative and intention. The 16-mm films and extended segments of 16-mm footage incorporated into the Museum of Modern Art’s current retrospective of Sigmar Polke’s work do both. Read […] Read more – ‘On Sigmar Polke’s films [Artforum]’.
On Manakama and Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab [NYRBlog]
Manakamana, the new documentary by anthropologist Stephanie Spray and filmmaker Pacho Velez, is a motion picture that transports the viewer to a mountaintop Hindu temple, as well as back in time to the medium’s dawn. Read more… Read more – ‘On Manakama and Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab [NYRBlog]’.
On Sholem Aleichem and Fiddler on the Roof [The Guardian]
The Russian-speaking Yiddish author Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916) was, in his lifetime, a prolific popular writer and a failed playwright. In death, he defined a culture. Read more… Read more – ‘On Sholem Aleichem and Fiddler on the Roof [The Guardian]’.
On Michael Snow as photographer [Artforum]
A humble, relentless, more or less continuous zoom shot taking forty-five minutes to traverse a Canal Street loft into a photograph pasted on the far wall, Michael Snow’s Wavelength (1967) provided twentieth-century cinema with a definitive metaphor for itself as temporal projection—and also burdened Snow with an unrepeatable masterpiece. Read more… Read more – ‘On Michael Snow as photographer [Artforum]’.
On Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” [Tablet]
Dark, savage, excessive in its add-ons and murky in its details, Aronofsky’s rip-roaring re-reading and re-scripting of Genesis: 6-10 is not a blockbuster for the ages. But it is likely the most eccentric Old Testament adaptation to come out Hollywood since John Huston’s The Bible… In the Beginning. Read more… Read more – ‘On Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah” [Tablet]’.
On Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” [NYRBlog]
Lars von Trier has made several great films (Dogville, Melancholia). He has also orchestrated a number of provocations, the strongest of which is The Idiots (1998), a movie that anticipates Borat, Jackass, and other recent movies in pushing regressive behavior beyond all acceptable limits. His newest film, Nymphomaniac, belongs with these… Read more Read more – ‘On Lars von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac” [NYRBlog]’.
On the exhibits “Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module” and “The Shadows Took Shape” [NYRBlog]
Such is loosely the premise of two very different New York shows, the New Museum’s “Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module” and the Studio Museum in Harlem’s “The Shadows Took Shape,” both featuring art inspired by 1960s and 1970s science fiction films.  Read more… Read more – ‘On the exhibits “Report on the Construction of a Spaceship Module” and “The Shadows Took Shape” [NYRBlog]’.
On “12 Years a Slave” [Harper’s]
“Someone must have slandered Joseph K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” So begins one of the most emblematic novels of the twentieth century and so, more or less, begins the most generally honored motion picture of 2013: 12 Years a Slave. Read more…  Read more – ‘On “12 Years a Slave” [Harper’s]’.
On Miklós Jancsó’s 60s Films [Film Comment]
It was the last century’s impossible dream: a double vanguard, radical form in the service of radical content. There were moments-the Soviet silent cinema, Brecht’s epic theater, Surrealism perhaps, the Popular Front anti-fascism of Guernica and Citizen Kane, the promise of underground movies. And then, from the very back of beyond and close to the […] Read more – ‘On Miklós Jancsó’s 60s Films [Film Comment]’.
‘The Crooked Mirror’ reflects a Polish-Jewish journey [LA Times]
More than 3 million Jews lived in pre-World War II Poland, making up 10% of the population. Today, the Jewish population is at best a tenth of a percent of what it was in 1939. Yet the world is not devoid of Polish Jews. Read more… Read more – ‘‘The Crooked Mirror’ reflects a Polish-Jewish journey [LA Times]’.
The Past Can Hold a Horrible Power: The Controversy over Aftermath [New York Times]
A man returns to his hometown after 20 years abroad. Something is clearly amiss. Neighbors are unaccountably hostile. The family farm is seemingly under siege. His estranged brother greets him with an ax in hand for a reunion rendered all the more tense by a rock crashing through the window. Read more… Read more – ‘The Past Can Hold a Horrible Power: The Controversy over Aftermath [New York Times]’.
I Remember Ralston: The Art of Ralston Farina [Artforum Oct 2013]
I remember Ralston Farina. Or rather, I remember being aware of the name Ralston Farina back in the mid-1970s, in the context of work that was not yet called performance but was something newer and funkier than Happenings. Read more... Read more – ‘I Remember Ralston: The Art of Ralston Farina [Artforum Oct 2013]’.
Drowning in the Digital Abyss [NYRBlog]
Floating free from their damaged space shuttle, the astronaut protagonists of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, rookie Sandra Bullock and veteran George Clooney, seem to swim (or drown) in an immeasurable fish tank. Depth and volume are illusory. Mass has no weight. In this 3-D spectacle, best seen on the outsized IMAX screen, Cuarón promotes sensory disorientation—or […] Read more – ‘Drowning in the Digital Abyss [NYRBlog]’.
Gathered Acts of an Auteur Provocateur [New York Times]
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. No filmmaker was more identified with the New York Film Festival’s first decade than Jean-Luc Godard; now entering its second half-century with a new programming director, Kent Jones, the festival is poised to begin New York’s first comprehensive retrospective devoted to … Jean-Luc Godard. Read more… Read more – ‘Gathered Acts of an Auteur Provocateur [New York Times]’.
Samuel Fuller’s ‘Shock Corridor’ arrived in mad times
Not a guy to mince words, two-fisted writer-director Samuel Fuller began (and ended) his tabloid classic “Shock Corridor” with a spurious quote from Euripides: “Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad.” But he might just have well taken his epigraph from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed […] Read more – ‘Samuel Fuller’s ‘Shock Corridor’ arrived in mad times’.
Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Dissident Gardens’ visits a family of American lefties
A red Rose grows in Brooklyn, marries German refugee Albert (from a once-wealthy family but also a gung-ho Jewish communist like herself), and after some debate (a specialty), moves with him to the planned community of Sunnyside Gardens, Queens. There in this imagined socialist utopia, Rose Angrush Zimmer gives birth to daughter Miriam, who at […] Read more – ‘Jonathan Lethem’s ‘Dissident Gardens’ visits a family of American lefties’.
On The Act of Killing [Tablet]
The title of Joshua Oppenheimer’s grotesque and provocative documentary The Act of Killing is a pun. Read more… Read more – ‘On The Act of Killing [Tablet]’.
Prague’s Savage Spring
František Vláčil’s Marketa Lazarová (1967) is a virtual terra incognita. Thirty years after its release, it was named overwhelmingly by a poll of Czech critics and filmmakers as the best movie ever produced in Czechoslovakia, yet it remains little known outside its native land. Read more… Read more – ‘Prague’s Savage Spring’.
Liberace Lives: “Behind the Candalabra”
Glitz on glitz. It would have been most Liberace-like had the TV premiere of Steven Soderbergh’s HBO production, the Liberace bio-pic “Behind the Candelabra”, been presaged by the announcement that star Michael Douglas had won the Best Actor Award at Cannes. Read more… Read more – ‘Liberace Lives: “Behind the Candalabra”’.
Hannah Arendt, Guilty Pleasure [Tablet]
You can keep Fast & Furious 6 and The Hangover Part III. My guilty pleasure this week is Hannah Arendt, the latest collaboration between actress Barbara Sukowa and director Margarethe von Trotta. Guilt, of course, being the operative word. Read more… Read more – ‘Hannah Arendt, Guilty Pleasure [Tablet]’.
Almost 80, He Continues the Ruckus [on Ken Jacobs] NYT
There are artists who burn out at 30 and others who, accelerating as they mature, begin to seem like forces of nature. One such force is Ken Jacobs, who turns 80 next Saturday — an occasion marked by a recent tribute at the Museum of Modern Art, with another next weekend at Anthology Film Archives. […] Read more – ‘Almost 80, He Continues the Ruckus [on Ken Jacobs] NYT’.
Something in the Air [Artinfo]
A youthful movie in more ways than one, Olivier Assayas’s “Something in the Air” evokes an irretrievable past even as it manages to embody the total excitement of a particular historical moment and even, self-reflexively, the trajectory of the French director’s career. Read more… Read more – ‘Something in the Air [Artinfo]’.
Post Tenebras Lux [Artinfo]
The showiest member of the new Mexican cinema, Carlos Reygadas, is part stuntmeister, part visionary — a wildly ambitious post-Warhol impresario who, often working without a screenplay, seeks out exalted landscapes and orchestrates conditions where nonprofessional actors are compelled to expose themselves, sometimes cruelly, on camera. Read more… Read more – ‘Post Tenebras Lux [Artinfo]’.
Portrait of Jason [Artinfo]
Restored and back in distribution thanks to the tireless folks at Milestone Films, the 1967 documentary “Portrait of Jason” is, without a doubt, Shirley Clarke’s most radical, as well as her most personal, film. Read more… Read more – ‘Portrait of Jason [Artinfo]’.
New York in Slow Motion [NYRBlog]
James Nares’s Street, an engrossing and celebratory hour-long, oversized video projection of life in New York City, is a monument to evanescence. Read more… Read more – ‘New York in Slow Motion [NYRBlog]’.
On “Moscow, the Fourth Rome” by Katerina Clark [Bookforum]
Author of The Soviet Novel, a classic analysis of socialist-realist fiction of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, and a professor of Slavic literature at Yale, Katerina Clark here reads the text of High Stalinism. Read more… Read more – ‘On “Moscow, the Fourth Rome” by Katerina Clark [Bookforum]’.
“Girls” Gone Wild [NYRBlog]
Spring Breakers, the new film by Harmony Korine, opens with an impressively staged shot of pure pulchritude—a mass of golden bodies gyrating on a Florida beach—rendered somewhat absurd by the cartoonish sounds of Skrillex’s wacky techno distortions. Read more… Read more – ‘“Girls” Gone Wild [NYRBlog]’.
“The Shining” is About What? [Tablet]
Even people who haven’t seen it know that The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel, is the scarific tale of a stir-crazy caretaker—Jack Nicholson, no less—driven mad by the ghosts haunting an isolated, off-season hotel… Read more Read more – ‘“The Shining” is About What? [Tablet]’.
Le Pont du Norde [Artinfo]
Jacques Rivette had his great period in the 1970s and “Le Pont du Nord,” opening for a week at BAM on Friday in a new 35mm print (possibly the first subtitled print shown here since the 1981 New York Film Festival), extends the territory Rivette mapped out in “Out 1,” “Celine and Julie Go Boating,” […] Read more – ‘Le Pont du Norde [Artinfo]’.
The Jewish Brando [Tablet]
A half dozen years ago, while teaching a college class called “Jews & American Cinema: Outsiders In or Insiders Out?”, I asked each student to name the Jewish-American media figure they thought most prominent. Read more... Read more – ‘The Jewish Brando [Tablet]’.
On Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills [Artforum]
Beyond the Hills, Cristian Mungiu’s new film, is in some ways the quintessential expression of the Romanian New Wave. Read more… Read more – ‘On Cristian Mungiu’s Beyond the Hills [Artforum]’.
American Obsession: ‘The Searchers’ [NYT Book Review]
There are a few Hollywood movies so thematically rich and so historically resonant they may be considered part of American literature. “The Searchers” is one. Read more… Read more – ‘American Obsession: ‘The Searchers’ [NYT Book Review]’.
A Warhol Film Surfaces, but Is It His? [New York Times]
Andy Warhol created movies by design, by chance, by mistake, and sometimes by doing nothing at all. Read more… Read more – ‘A Warhol Film Surfaces, but Is It His? [New York Times]’.
Zero Dark Thirty: the US election vehicle that came off the rails [Guardian]
When the Obama re-election machine began gearing up last winter, its presumed winning formula had the brevity of a high-concept Hollywood pitch: “General Motors is alive, Osama bin Laden is dead. Read more… Read more – ‘Zero Dark Thirty: the US election vehicle that came off the rails [Guardian]’.
A Jewy Little Christmas [Tablet]
‘Twas the night before Christmas 1967: home from college, hanging around somebody’s East Village hovel, smoking dope with the Channel 11 “Yule Log” emanating from a cheap black-and-white TV, getting the munchies and leading a magical mystery tour over to Ratner’s on Second Avenue. Read more… Read more – ‘A Jewy Little Christmas [Tablet]’.
The Trembling Upper World: On Siegfried Kracauer [The Nation]
Seeing motion pictures is a matter of perception; understanding them is the perception of that perception. For the American motion picture industry, the spring of 1947 was the season certain perceptions changed. Read more… Read more – ‘The Trembling Upper World: On Siegfried Kracauer [The Nation]’.
Tolkien vs. Technology [NYRBlog]
There is a good deal to be said about Peter Jackson’s long-awaited and exceedingly long adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, most of it bad. Read more... Read more – ‘Tolkien vs. Technology [NYRBlog]’.
Avraham Lincoln Avinu [Tablet]
“President Lincoln who was bearded, whose first name was Abraham, and who had freed the slaves [was], therefore, no doubt at all, a Jew, something the goyim would not concede, of course.” So riffed Yiddish poet J. L. Teller on behalf of his landslayt in his flavorsome memoir Strangers and Natives: The Evolution of the […] Read more – ‘Avraham Lincoln Avinu [Tablet]’.
On “The Master” [The Guardian]
Hollywood’s prestige season is upon us and, despite a parade of heavy hitters, including Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and the Wachowski-Tykwer adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, no potential Oscar winner is more ambitious – or more likely to provoke discussion regarding its meaning and intent – than Paul Thomas Anderson’s sixth feature, The Master.  Read […] Read more – ‘On “The Master” [The Guardian]’.
On “The Loneliest Planet” [Tablet]
Julia Loktev called her first feature, a documentary about the sudden accident that forever changed her parents’ lives, Moment of Impact. It’s a title that could apply to Loktev’s brilliant second feature, Day Night Day Night (2006), as well as her latest, opening this week, The Loneliest Planet. Read more… Read more – ‘On “The Loneliest Planet” [Tablet]’.
Trick or Truth? On “Faking It!” at the Met [NYRBlog]
“Every photograph is a fake from start to finish,” the photographer Edward Steichen asserted in the first issue of Camera Work in 1903. In what amounts to a backhanded defense of photography as art, Steichen explained that “a purely impersonal, unmanipulated photograph” was “practically impossible.” Read more… Read more – ‘Trick or Truth? On “Faking It!” at the Met [NYRBlog]’.
Obama’s Evil Twin [NYRBlog]
Surpassed only by The Expendables 2, with Sylvester Stallone, the Dinesh D’Souza political documentary 2016: Obama’s America was the second-highest grossing movie in America the week that it opened in late August—timed to coincide with the Republican National Convention—and is now among the top ten highest earning documentaries in history. Read more… Read more – ‘Obama’s Evil Twin [NYRBlog]’.
Schlocky Horror Picture Show [Tablet]
You might imagine that the past hundred years of Jewish history have been sufficiently horrendous to preclude the possibility of a Jewish horror film. And you might be right. But that has hardly deterred people from trying to make one. Read more… Read more – ‘Schlocky Horror Picture Show [Tablet]’.
Cosmopolis Take 2 [Artinfo]
On first viewing, David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” struck me as a perversely faithful yet detached adaptation of an uncharacteristically tedious Don DeLillo novel in which, apparently motivated by a not entirely conscious desire for self-annihilation as well as a chauffeur, a self-made 28-year-old billionaire spends an entire day traversing the gridlock of midtown Manhattan because he wants a […] Read more – ‘Cosmopolis Take 2 [Artinfo]’.
The Lost Futures of Chris Marker [NYRBlog]
Gracefully off-kilter, stylized as semaphores, the shadow of a man and an outlined woman are positioned at the center of a sea shell spiral. Are they dancing on air—or falling into the void? Read more… Read more – ‘The Lost Futures of Chris Marker [NYRBlog]’.
On Wallace Markfield [Tablet]
Had he lived, Wallace Markfield would have celebrated his 86th birthday this week. But it’s been 10 years since this word-slinging tummler left the stage, and you have to wonder if he didn’t write his own epitaph decades earlier. In the most famous line of his first and best-remembered novel, To an Early Grave—a book […] Read more – ‘On Wallace Markfield [Tablet]’.
On David Cronenberg and “Cosmopolis” [LA Times]
Hypnotic or stupefying? “This is the third time I’ve seen it, and I still don’t know if it works,” a colleague told me as we left a screening of David Cronenberg’s”Cosmopolis.” I totally understand. The movie is undeniably something — but what exactly? Read more… Read more – ‘On David Cronenberg and “Cosmopolis” [LA Times]’.
Almayer’s Folly [Artinfo]
“Almayer’s Folly,” the great Belgian-born film-artist Chantal Akerman’s first narrative feature in seven years (playing New York for a week at Anthology Film Archives), is a brilliant, wayward mash-up suggesting European colonialism as a madman’s fantasy — namely a white father’s hopeless passion for his mixed race daughter. Read more… Read more – ‘Almayer’s Folly [Artinfo]’.
2 Days in New York [Artinfo]
Woody Allen’s name is all over the newspaper ads for “2 Days in New York” and you can find his fingerprints on Julie Delpy’s new movie as well—this sequel to her 2007 comedy “2 Days in Paris” is a wacky Woodmanesque comedy of cultural difference in which the French director-actress gets to play ditzy neurotic […] Read more – ‘2 Days in New York [Artinfo]’.
Free Radicals [Artinfo]
A documentary on what’s usually called “avant-garde” film, Pip Chodorov’s “Free Radicals” opens with a weirdly solarized, emulsion-cracked or perhaps painted-over high-angle shot of a small boy held by his mother. Is it a clip from Stan Brakhage or maybe Robert Breer? Then the filmmaker’s voice is heard: “These were my home movies until my […] Read more – ‘Free Radicals [Artinfo]’.
The Dark Knight Rises [Artinfo]
Sad but true: Save for an occasional oddball comedy, the summer blockbuster is pretty much Hollywood’s remaining contribution to world film culture — with those movies that draw on comic book superheroes having the added advantage of elaborating a cherished national mythology. Read more… Read more – ‘The Dark Knight Rises [Artinfo]’.
On Robert Siodmak [New York Times]
A Hollywood director once bracketed with Alfred Hitchcock and Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak (1900-73) is credited by some scholars with developing the German-French-American synthesis known as film noir and dismissed by others as an impersonal technician whose greatest talent was successively adapting himself to three national movie industries and whose trademark on-set joke was “It […] Read more – ‘On Robert Siodmak [New York Times]’.
Beasts of the Southern Wild [Artinfo]
A sensation in Sundance, Cannes, and points in between, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is set to explode on the nation’s screens this week. My only concern is that Benh Zeitlin’s exuberantly ramshackle exercise in gumbo magic realism may have been a bit oversold. Read more… Read more – ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild [Artinfo]’.
The Single Antidote to Thoughts of Suicide: RW Fassbinder’s American friends [Moving Image Source]
The following talk was given on June 10, 2012, in Berlin as part of “Hands on Fassbinder,” a series of lectures and screenings organized by the editors of Revolver. Read more… Read more – ‘The Single Antidote to Thoughts of Suicide: RW Fassbinder’s American friends [Moving Image Source]’.
Solondz’s Schlubs [Tablet]
“Wistful” is not a word one would ordinarily use to describe a Todd Solondz production, but Dark Horse—the 51-year-old filmmaker’s fifth feature since his 1995 Welcome to the Dollhouse put him on the indie map with its hilariously bleak vision of junior-high-school hell—is an exercise in compassionate misanthropy. Read more… Read more – ‘Solondz’s Schlubs [Tablet]’.
On Franco Solinas & the Un-American Western [NYRBlog]
With the escalation of the Vietnam War, every Marxist intellectual, it seemed, wanted to write a Western. The most notable was Franco Solinas (1927–1982), a teenaged partisan and longtime member of the Italian Communist Party, journalist for the Communist newspaper L’Unità, and author. Solinas worked on four Spaghetti Westerns—all included in a three-week-long series at […] Read more – ‘On Franco Solinas & the Un-American Western [NYRBlog]’.
Moonrise Kingdom [Artinfo]
A kinder, gentler, altogether more soulful “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,” Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” is a triumph of marionette show mise-en-scène and a paean to precocious puppy love. Read more… Read more – ‘Moonrise Kingdom [Artinfo]’.
Oslo, August 31 [Artinfo]
The dead man walking through Joachim Trier’s affecting second feature “Oslo, August 31” would seem to have every reason to live—and that’s the point. “I’m a spoiled brat who fucked up,” he remarks during the course of a day in which his first activity is a desultory attempt to drown himself in a sylvan lake […] Read more – ‘Oslo, August 31 [Artinfo]’.
Elena [Artinfo]
Andrey Zvyagintsev is the most internationally-acclaimed Russian filmmaker to emerge during the Putin era, and his expertly directed third feature “Elena” is, albeit oblique, the most vivid evocation I’ve seen of Moscow’s contemporary society. Read more… Read more – ‘Elena [Artinfo]’.
The Not-So-Great ‘Dictator’ [Tablet]
Tasteless but by no means mindless, Sacha Baron Cohen is the most incendiary Jewish performance artist since Lenny Bruce. (You were thinking Jackie Mason?) Although his personal ideology would seem to be some form of left Zionism, his vaudeville travesties and gross-out pranks outrage nationalists of all persuasions and moralizers across the political spectrum. Read […] Read more – ‘The Not-So-Great ‘Dictator’ [Tablet]’.
On The Avengers and 9/11 [Guardian]
Mad terror in the streets as flying whatsits and killer robots from outer space ricochet off and, more often, crash through 70-story skyscrapers. Mighty towers crumble; concrete chunks spray from the screen. Total Sensurround: the theatre itself shakes as the non-stop cosmic battle-cum-pinball game that is The Avengers reaches its climax in a digital midtown […] Read more – ‘On The Avengers and 9/11 [Guardian]’.
Bonsái [Artinfo]
Chilean director Cristián Jiménez’s “Bonsái” is the essence of cosmopolitan provincialism — a superbly grounded, programmatically small, meta-literary tragicomedy of student-boho life. Read more… Read more – ‘Bonsái [Artinfo]’.
Dark Shadows [Artinfo]
Over the past two decades, Tim Burton has cast Johnny Depp as a succession of Anglo-American archetypes: Ed Wood, Ichabod Crane, Willy Wonka (an interpretation many thought inspired by Anna Wintour), Sweeney Todd, the Mad Hatter, and now Barnabas Collins, the reluctant vampire hero of the beloved TV soap opera “Dark Shadows” (ABC, 1966-71), lavishly revisited, although not […] Read more – ‘Dark Shadows [Artinfo]’.
Revisiting “Celine and Julie Go Boating” [Artinfo]
There are movies that (just as there are people who) take such pleasure in themselves that you can’t help but admire them. It’s contagious — they are enchanting precisely they so openly revel in their movie-ness. “Casablanca” may be the best-known, but the supreme example is surely Jacques Rivette’s 1974 “Celine and Julie Go Boating.” […] Read more – ‘Revisiting “Celine and Julie Go Boating” [Artinfo]’.
Talking Smack About Junk: “The Connection” [NYRBlog]
Re-released in a lovingly restored print on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, Shirley Clarke’s debut film The Connection is an excavated relic of an earlier New York. The movie adapts an off-Broadway blockbuster—Jack Gelber’s “jazz play” of the same name—and concerns a filmmaker’s foredoomed attempt to document a gaggle of heroin addicts while they […] Read more – ‘Talking Smack About Junk: “The Connection” [NYRBlog]’.
The All-Too Affable Ballad of “Bernie”
One of the most amiable and least predictable of American directors, Austin-based indie Richard Linklater follows his deft period reconstruction “Me and Orson Welles” and animated Philip K. Dick yarn “A Scanner Darkly” with an exercise in regional humor. “Bernie” is a true-life Texas tall-tale about a murderous funeral director and the little town of Carthage […] Read more – ‘The All-Too Affable Ballad of “Bernie”’.
A Charismatic Chameleon: On Luis Buñuel [The Nation]
With regard to longevity and productivity, not to mention talent, the only peers of the great Spanish director Luis Buñuel (1900–83) are his contemporaries Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock. The old Surrealist was, however, a far slyer fox.  Read more… Read more – ‘A Charismatic Chameleon: On Luis Buñuel [The Nation]’.
The Devil, Probably
“The Devil, Probably,” one of the great Robert Bresson’s greatest, and least-seen, movies gets a week-long run (April 20-26) in the midst of BAMcinématek’s Bresson retrospective — resplendent in a new 35mm print and hailed by no less an authority than Richard Hell as “the most punk movie ever made.” Read more… Read more – ‘The Devil, Probably’.
The Organizer: Description of a Struggle
An unverifiable, if heartfelt, assertion: For the quarter century between 1945 and 1970 (or from Rome Open City to Fellini Satyricon), the world’s greatest popular cinema was produced in Italy—a realm of glamorous superstars, sensational comedians, and great genre flicks. A half dozen maestros were backed by a remarkably deep bench, including writer-director Mario Monicelli […] Read more – ‘The Organizer: Description of a Struggle’.
Gordon Gekko may be a problem for Mitt Romney [Los Angeles Times]
“It’s thrilling left-wing trash,” Village Voice critic David Edelstein ended his review of Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street,” “and it’s more or less disposable.” Thrilling (at times), left-wing (I guess), trash (not entirely), the movie Oliver Stone began shooting in lower Manhattan 25 years ago this month has proved anything but disposable. Read more… Read more – ‘Gordon Gekko may be a problem for Mitt Romney [Los Angeles Times]’.
Larraín’s “Post Mortem”: Exhuming the Chile of 1973
One of the most alarming “memory” films of recent years, Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s 2008 “Tony Manero” pondered the activities of a murderous madman living under martial law and obsessively impersonating the protagonist of “Saturday Night Fever.” Larraín’s follow-up, “Post Mortem,” is another dark, deadpan comedy that’s more overtly political and scarcely less disturbing. Read […] Read more – ‘Larraín’s “Post Mortem”: Exhuming the Chile of 1973’.
On the Three Stooges and “The Three Stooges” [Tablet]
Some people think Ebenezer Scrooge is— Well, he’s not. But guess who is … All Three Stooges! —Adam Sandler, “The Chanukkah Song” (1996) Personally, I’ve yet to meet anyone who mistook Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge for a Jew, but I get Adam Sandler’s point. Read more… Read more – ‘On the Three Stooges and “The Three Stooges” [Tablet]’.
On Guy Madden’s “Keyhole” [Artinfo]
A seething, phantasmagorical imbroglio even by Guy Maddin’s standards, “Keyhole” has something to do with a ’30s gangster (Jason Patric) whose mind is in an advanced state of disintegration. That the character is called Ulysses and is trying to find his way back home — or at least back to his bedroom — would seem […] Read more – ‘On Guy Madden’s “Keyhole” [Artinfo]’.
On “Damsels in Distress” [Artinfo]
Given that “Damsels in Distress” is the first Whit Stillman feature in the 14 years since “The Last Days of Disco” reveled in Studio 54 nostalgia, it’s almost impossible not to wish this essentially amiable project well. Intermittently witty and never exactly tiresome… Read more Read more – ‘On “Damsels in Distress” [Artinfo]’.
On “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League” [Artforum]
Part of our time? Herewith “some ruins and monuments of the thirties” that Murray Kempton’s book overlooked: “The Radical Camera,” a survey of the work of New York’s Photo League, a socially minded artists’ collective that was born in the New Deal and expired during the Cold War, explores two not unrelated historical artifacts. Read […] Read more – ‘On “The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League” [Artforum]’.
Artificial Paradises
Wafting into Dumbo’s reRun Gastropub Theater tonight for a week-long run, 29- year-old Mexican director Yulene Olaizola’s second feature “Paraisos Artificiales” [Artificial Paradises] is an exemplary situation documentary that employs one professional actor, Luisa Pardo, and a single location, Playa Jicacal, a jungle beach (apparently off season) in Veracruz, as the basis for an 83-minute […] Read more – ‘Artificial Paradises’.
On Terence Davies [NYRBlog]
A nation must have its culture heroes, and current wisdom among Anglo-American movie critics and programmers has advanced Terence Davies, to the position of Britain’s greatest living filmmaker. Read more… Read more – ‘On Terence Davies [NYRBlog]’.
Jerry Lewis at 86
Clown prince of arrested development, maestro of coercive sentimentality: Is there a needier, more agonizingly ambitious figure in American popular culture than Jerry Lewis? The man doesn’t just want to make you laugh until you choke on your cookies and milk flows through your nose; he wants you to appreciate that he’s the greatest humanitarian […] Read more – ‘Jerry Lewis at 86’.
On Abel Ferrara [New York magazine]
Abel Ferrara, the cine scuzz-meister who set the bar for urban depravity with King of New York, then vaulted over it with the original Bad Lieutenant, is back home. 4:44 Last Day on Earth, opening Friday, is the End of the World on Delancey Street: In a loft above the Williamsburg Bridge, Willem Dafoe and […] Read more – ‘On Abel Ferrara [New York magazine]’.
Aleksei German Among the Long Shadows [Film Comment 1999]
“It is interesting, even funny—or weird, perhaps—to imagine people sitting in an American cinema watching my movie.” So the Russian filmmaker Aleksei German mused when he first visited New York a dozen years ago for the local premiere of his once-shelved and now-revered Soviet “ nostalgia” film, My Friend Ivan Lapshin. Read more… Read more – ‘Aleksei German Among the Long Shadows [Film Comment 1999]’.
On “The Kid on a Bike”
Although they seldom show a church or have a character call on Jesus, the brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are the worker-priests of European art cinema. Twice presented the Palm d’or at Cannes (for “Rosetta” in 1999 and “L’enfant” in 2005), the Belgian duo have perfected a sort of spiritually-infused social realism. Read more… Read more – ‘On “The Kid on a Bike”’.
Prize Fighters: Footnote pits a Talmudic scholar against his academic son
Footnote, the absurdist tragedy by New York-born, Israeli-raised Joseph Cedar, is a movie of such cosmic inconsequence that hyperbole is inevitable. So here goes: If immersing oneself in the history of the Jews is the essence of the Jewish condition, Footnote is the most Jewish movie since The Jazz Singer. Read more… Read more – ‘Prize Fighters: Footnote pits a Talmudic scholar against his academic son’.
Food, Politics and Sex, Brought to a Boil
“HYSTERICAL EXCESS: DISCOVERING ANDRZEJ ZULAWSKI” is the film programmer’s equivalent of a banner headline. It’s not exactly misleading, but the subject of this BAMcinématek retrospective is definitely displeased. “ ‘Hysterical’ is a word I abhor,” Mr. Zulawski (zhoo-WOFF-skee) said when reached by telephone in Warsaw.  Read more… Read more – ‘Food, Politics and Sex, Brought to a Boil’.
A Place of Our Deepest Desires
The jacket of Geoff Dyer’s “Zona” describes it as “A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room.” It is also a hall of mirrors in which the author watches himself watching (and remembers himself remembering) a movie that, according to his impressively detailed description, ends with a character looking at us, looking […] Read more – ‘A Place of Our Deepest Desires’.
Ready for Release: Jafar Panahi’s This is Not a Film
This is Not a Film certainly is one–but, as Samuel Beckett or Abbot and Costello might say–Watt is Knott? Read more… Read more – ‘Ready for Release: Jafar Panahi’s This is Not a Film’.
Hugo and the magic of film trickery
Is there a phrase more hackneyed than “the magic of the movies”? From the moment of their invention at the end of the 19th century, motion pictures have been perceived as simultaneously hyper natural and supernatural. Read more… Read more – ‘Hugo and the magic of film trickery’.
Perspective: Holocaust films and the Oscars
In the 52 years since Shelley Winters won a supporting actress Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank, there have been 20 nominated features — including foreign-language and documentary films — that treated the Holocaust from the perspective of its victims. Only two have gone home unrewarded. Read more… Read more – ‘Perspective: Holocaust films and the Oscars’.
A New Obama Cinema
A lone lean figure strides purposefully through a dark tunnel, maybe a highway underpass. There’s no fear. A familiar husky voice whispers that “it’s half time—both teams are in their locker rooms, discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half.” One needn’t be a genius like Karl Rove to catch […] Read more – ‘A New Obama Cinema’.
Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Haywire’ thinks as it fights
No one watches a movie in a vacuum. You don’t check your real-world baggage at the door — something for which any good critic must account. Several days before catching the new Steven Soderbergh action thriller “Haywire,” I learned that Soderbergh had made the movie on the rebound, fired from “Moneyball” on the eve of […] Read more – ‘Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Haywire’ thinks as it fights’.
No Man Is An Island: Aleksander Andriyevsky’s Robinzon Kruzo
WAS ONCE, LONG LONG TIME AGO, great big Cold War joke—Russian claim to have invented lightbulb, radio transmitter, and even TV set. Also, to have developed feature-length 3-D movies shown without special glasses—which, in fact, they did! Read more… Read more – ‘No Man Is An Island: Aleksander Andriyevsky’s Robinzon Kruzo’.
Godzilla: Poetry After the A-Bomb
From the scary thuds and mysterious roars that accompany the no-frills titles to the bizarrely poignant final image of the monster, alone at the bottom of the ocean, Ishiro Honda’s 1954 Godzilla is all business and pure dream… Read more – ‘Godzilla: Poetry After the A-Bomb’.