• [The Daily] Film-Philosophy and More

    By David Hudson

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    Catherine Grant points us to the new issue of the open access journal Film-Philosophy. Before we begin paging through it, let’s have a look at a piece by Benjamin Crais which the Notebook ran last December:

    For Anglophone readers, Jean Louis Schefer’s name will most likely only be familiar through the reverent, often enigmatic references made in translated works by some of the most eminent French film theorists and critics: Gilles Deleuze, (“Jean Louis Schefer, in a book in which the theory forms a kind of great poem…”), Nicole Brenez, (“In the beginning was Jean Louis Schefer…”), Serge Daney (“[a thinker] mysterious and more complicated than we were”), etc. Semiotext(e)’s recent translation of Schefer’s The Ordinary Man of Cinema, published in France in 1980, rectifies what was previously a serious gap in our knowledge of French film theory and offers the chance—especially as “film-philosophy” is so in vogue in academia right now—to reappraise how we conceive the relationship between cinema and thought today.

    So, in Film-Philosophy, Patrick Ffrench argues “that in its recurrent emphasis on the ‘inchoate’ elements in film, and on the ‘inceptions’ of movements that it provokes, Schefer’s thought draws implicitly on the Bataillean notion of the informe (formlessness). This return to an impossibility of thought at the heart of thought is among the fundamental insights which Deleuze draws from Schefer in Cinema 2: The Time-image.

    Landry Olivia “analyzes Christian Petzold's exemplary 2014 film Phoenix, tracking a new development in Holocaust cinema that focuses on phenomenological narratives of embodied experience of trauma.”

    Kjetl Rødje argues that, in found footage horror, cameras “take on roles as active agents with the potential to affect other elements within the images as well as the films’ audiences.” The suspense inherent in the genre is derived in part from the fact that it “crucially hinges upon the survival of the footage.”

    Mike Meneghetti presents “an extended analysis” of Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002) to “demonstrate how the distinctive utilization of actors constitutes both a redescription of the historical past and a spur to interpretation.”

    The new issue also features three book reviews:

    • Dan Shaw on Robert Sinnerbrink’s Cinematic Ethics: Exploring Ethical Experience Through Film.
    • Marta Weychan on Nancy and Visual Culture, a collection edited by Carrie Giunta and Adrienne Janus that “brings together scholars from a wide spectrum of disciplines in visual culture and the philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy.”
    • Jacques de Villiers on David Deamer’s Deleuze’s Cinema Books: Three Introductions to the Taxonomy of Images.

    MORE READING

    “Few other genres are as pervasive and prestigious.” David Bordwell sketches a brief history of a “mega-genre,” the thriller. “If you’re a writer or a director, and you’re not making a superhero film or a franchise entry, you really have only a few choices nowadays: drama, comedy, thriller. The thriller is a tempting option on several grounds.” First, of course, they’re popular, and what’s more, “there’s an impressive tradition.” There’s also a wealth of source material, a promising return on investment—the list goes on.

    Luchino Visconti’s Lo straniero (1967), based on Albert Camus’s novel and starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anna Karina, is rarely seen, most probably due to rights issues. “Whatever is keeping The Stranger out of American hands, it isn’t lack of quality,” writes Farran Smith Nehme for Film Comment. “I wouldn’t rank it with Visconti’s greatest films, but the first half in particular gets under your skin, and stays there.”

    “Of all the international ‘new waves’ that have crested in the 21st century, Romania’s is unique in that its heroes haven’t really gone transnational,” writes Adam Nayman for the TIFF Review. “While directors such as the South Korean Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer), the Danish Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, The Neon Demon) and the Italian Paolo Sorrentino (Youth) have been invited to collaborate with American producers and distributors, [Cristian] Mungiu, [Cristi] Puiu, and [Corneliu] Porumboiu have stayed focused and situated on their home turf—they don’t travel, even if their movies do.”

    Laura Poitras’s Risk, a documentary about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, “makes an important argument about the relationship between cyberlibertarianism and Western liberalism,” writes Richard Grusin for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Risk is informed by Poitras’s “own conflicting attitudes—her belief in the tremendous political good being accomplished in the fight against state surveillance, censorship, and control of digital information, and her discomfort with the patriarchy, sexism, and abuse that permeate the infosec community. But there is another, implicit contradiction that the film lays bare: between the claims of cyberlibertarianism to resist and oppose the structure of power that dominates Western civilization, particularly the governmental institutions of the State, and the perpetuation of this structure of power within infosec communities.”

    “By the beginning of the 1970s the malevolence in the English landscape was once more on the loose,” writes Adam Scovall for the BFI, suggesting that Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971) “shares a great deal with Witchfinder General [1968]—another western-like story posing as an English social equivalent, in which isolated rural plains give rise to a continued violence against women and, more generally, between male rivals.”

    Penda’s Fen, written by David Rudkin and directed by Alan Clarke, was first broadcast on the BBC in 1974. “Although increasingly mentioned in the same breath as the recently canonized 1970s folk horror triumvirate of Witchfinder General, Blood on Satan's Claw, and The Wicker Man, Penda’s Fen resists conscription into the genre,” write Matthew Harle and James Machin for the Quietus. “Unlike the former films, it does not achieve it potency by surmounting any crude, generic pulp trappings, for it has none. . . . It is an unusual, even unique, work for television, that emerges from a long British tradition of Christian visionary, ecstatic religious writing from John Bunyan and William Blake to Arthur Machen and Charles Williams.”

    With Daughters of the Dust (1991) back in theaters in the UK, Simran Hans talks with director Julie Dash for the Observer: “I was so pleased and honored to have won a special award from the New York Film Critics Circle this past February, but I’m still knocking on doors.” Even so, she’ll soon be directing two episodes of Queen Sugar for Ava DuVernay.

    “I'm not an actress that needs to know everything,” Katharine Hepburn told James Grissom in 1990. “I trust what I’m given, and in that case [Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959], I was given the play by Tennessee [Williams], and then the script, which was based on the play and was intelligent and had clear lines of direction within it. I’d go mad if a writer—in a book or a play or a screenplay—defined and described every motivation or memory or impulse in a character.”

    MORE BOOKS

    Italian film critic Michael Guarneri has a new book out, Questi fiori malati. Il cinema di Pedro Costa. Not only has Jugend Ohne Film posted an English translation of the introduction—in the form of a letter to the filmmaker—but Patrick Holzapfel’s interview with Guarneri as well: “So my book is a work of ‘cultural popularization,’ to quote the Straubs and Mr. Costa himself. ‘Cinema must be useful,’ as they like to say, and books, too. My aim is to make something available, to make people ‘meet’ a cinema and a person that I find amazing. Can we take Mr. Costa out of ‘the museum,’ like he tried to do with the Straubs in his film Où gît votre sourire enfoui?

    “In Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies, Ann Hornaday provides a pleasantly calm, eminently sensible, down-the-middle primer for the movie lover—amateur, professional or Twitter-centric orator—who would like to acquire and sharpen basic viewing skills,” writes Lisa Schwarzbaum.

    Also in the New York Times, Jeanine Basinger: “One of Gene Kelly’s co-stars, the swimmer Esther Williams, left for posterity a succinct version of his life story: He was ‘a jerk, but he could dance!’” Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson’s He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly “essentially says the same thing.” Kelly’s “historical relevance deserves an analytical book with original insight, and Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, a major force in keeping his reputation alive, is known to be at work on one.”

    GOINGS ON

    New York. More on The Lubitsch Touch, the retrospective running at Film Forum through June 15, this time from Nick Pinkerton, writing for Artforum: “Lubitsch had a knack for drawing the unexpected out of his actors—Garbo’s drunk act in Ninotchka, say, or the combination of suavity and pussycat contentment radiated by Don Ameche in Heaven Can Wait. And while Lubitsch’s late works access depths of feeling not found in his fleet farces, the constant throughout his films is sex.”

    Los Angeles. “At venues around the city such as the Motion Picture Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn and Linwood Dunn theaters, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s Bing Theater, the UCLA Film and Television Archive at the Billy Wilder Theater, the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian and Aero theaters, the Cinefamily and the New Beverly Cinema, as well as others including Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, REDCAT, the Theatre at Ace Hotel downtown, and micro-cinemas such as Los Angeles Filmforum, Veggie Cloud and the Echo Park Film Center, the rep cinema scene in Los Angeles is undergoing what numerous programmers are calling a new golden age,” writes Mark Olsen.

    Also in the Los Angeles Times is Jen Yamato’s marvelous piece on the New Beverly, the all-35mm theater now owned and programmed by Quentin Tarantino. “More than half of the films that play come directly from Tarantino’s collection, according to director of operations Jules McLean. To lay out a month’s lineup, she says, he fills out blank calendar printouts by hand, dreaming up inspired film combinations. The staff then sets about to procure each print, often borrowing rarities from private collectors, studios and archives from around the world.”

    And with six films by Jerry Schatzberg on the New Beverly’s schedule for June, Howard S. Berger presents a guide, “not as an explanation of what each Jerry Schatzberg film means unto itself but rather what they mean to each other comprising a grander entity.”

    Chicago. With Jean-Pierre Melville: Criminal Codes on at the Gene Siskel Film Center through July 6, Michael Smith recommends Bob le flambeur (1956), screening on Tuesday. “Melville expressed a punch-drunk love for American genre fare, refracting crime/noir conventions through his unique Gallic sensibility to create something refreshingly new, would exert a massive influence on the directors of the nouvelle vague in just a few years time.”

    Austin. Zack McGhee has revived the Austin Film Calendar.

    Portland. The Northwest Film Center presents a guide to all the films it’ll be showing on celluloid this summer.

    IN THE WORKS

    “After 17 years, we have completed the shoot of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,Terry Gilliam announced yesterday on Facebook. This is, of course, a production so troubled that it spawned a documentary, Lost in La Mancha, shot in 2000 and intended as a making-of, but released in 2002 as a record of an implosion. Gilliam has attempted to revive the project over and again and, at long last, he’s got a movie, starring Jonathan Pryce and Adam Driver no less, in the can.

    Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva reports that Ben Stiller will direct Paul Dano, Benicio del Toro, and Patricia Arquette in Showtime’s eight-hour limited series Escape at Dannemora, “based on the headline-making true story of a 2015 prison break in upstate New York, which spawned a massive manhunt for two convicted murderers who were aided in their escape by a married female prison employee with whom they both became sexually entangled.”

    LISTENING

    The TIFF Review has posted Rob Kraszewski and Geoff Macnaughton’s conversation (40’25”) with Dilani Rabindran, founder of Viewfinder Film Consulting and a programmer at the Real Asian Film Festival, about Telugu, or “Tollywood” cinema, “a regional Indian film industry that, until recently, lived in the shadow of the countries' thriving ‘Bollywood’ industry. That's all changed though with the release of Baahubali 2: The Return, a new Telugu film that was been shattering box office records, both in India and around the world, grossing over $20 Million in the U.S. alone (a staggering number for an Indian film).”

    For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

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