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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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’.
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’.
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”’.
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]’.
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’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
‘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]’.
“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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
“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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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,” 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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
“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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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”’.
“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’.
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’.
“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]’.
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’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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]’.
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’.
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]’.
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’.
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]’.
“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]’.
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”’.
“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’.
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’.
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’.
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 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’.
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’.
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’.