• [The Daily] Cine-Files: Rivette and Marker

    By David Hudson

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    Once again, we open an entry with a tip from Catherine Grant, the new twelfth issue of Cine-Files, a special commemorative issue “dedicated to the films and artistic legacy of Jacques Rivette and Chris Marker.” Editor Mary Wiles: “Both directors, associated with the Right and Left Bank of postwar French filmmaking, respectively, established their careers in the 1950s in France; both began their careers as writers (Rivette as a critic at La Gazette du cinéma and then at Cahiers du cinéma, Marker as a novelist and contributor to Esprit); both are associated with cinéma vérité; both reflect (and reflect upon) the influence of surrealism; a concern with temporality is central in both their oeuvres.”

    At the top of the dossier is an essay from Rivette himself, “The Act and the Actor,” which, as Wiles notes, “closes with an incisive articulation of the interrelation of film and theater.”

    There are two pieces on Out 1 (1971), the first from Suzanne Liandrat-Guigues: “Rivette actually places the work of preparation at the visible center of the film. The periphery becomes the center.” And the second from Roland-François Lack, who maintains the outstanding site The Cine-Tourist: “When, at a bus stop on the Boulevard Masséna (episode 6), Quentin (Pierre Baillot) starts obsessively measuring distances between places on a map of Paris, he anticipates the kind of activity that has informed this piece, in which are raised thirteen points relating to the topography of Out 1.

    “In the immediate aftermath of May ’68,” writes Wiles, “Rivette was understandably drawn to [Marguerite] Duras, a fellow traveler whose film work, not unlike his own, would continue to evolve from within, drawing on the auteurist themes of erotic obsession, madness, and loss that had informed her fiction.”

    La Bande des quatre (1989), like most of Jacques Rivette’s films, is a film about acting,” writes Douglas Morrey.

    Hélène Frappat: “A young woman emerges from Montsouris Square and turns onto Avenue Reille; she begins to run, suddenly taking flight; soon she will move beyond the frame where a static shot would still be able to capture her; the horizon line of the avenue becomes the black background for the final credits. Thus, Haut bas fragile (Up Down Fragile, 1995) comes to a close, the last film of Jacques Rivette, with a rapid departure motivated not by panic but by intense relief, a pure gesture of freedom acquired after three hours, and also eighteen films.”

    “Rivette’s 50-second Une aventure de Ninon (1895) provides a condensed look into a few of Rivette’s core ideas on cinema and helps point out several of his key auteur traits,” argues Richard Neupert.

    We also find a short text on The Duchess of Langeais (2007) by James Naremore that originally ran in Film Quarterly in 2009.

    For Sarah Cooper, “it is Marker’s films that have always offered the best way of coming to terms with his future disappearance.”

    Rick Warner sets out “to look into a few key segments from L’Héritage de la chouette (The Owl’s Legacy, 1989), [Marker’s] thirteen-part television series which explores the foundations of Western civilization in Greek antiquity. My concern will be to demonstrate how voiceover conspires with two other devices—interviews and acts of citation—in order to animate what I will call an innovative practice of symposial montage.”

    Beyond the dossier, the issue features four further essays, beginning with Samm Deighan on Rivette’s Merry-Go-Round (1981): “The film’s oneiric sense of logic—such a crucial element of Rivette’s work in general and here, at least in part, a clever solution to production difficulties—and vague approach to its central mystery is a subversion of crime and mystery genre tropes.”

    Julia Alekseyeva notes that “although Chris Marker’s films are often described in the context of cinematic movements such as the nouvelle Vague and cinéma vérité, no study has yet analyzed Marker’s idiosyncratic use of the animated form.” And so she “analyzes two rarely-discussed films by the rive gauche filmmaker: Letter from Siberia, one of Marker’s first productions, and The Astronauts, created with the Polish animator and filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk.”

    Marker’s Le joli mai (1962) “is frequently contextualized only by its technological breakthroughs (e.g. the use of light-weight equipment),” writes Chang-Min Yu. “Seeing Le joli mai entirely as a documentary born out of technological progress hinders our ability to appreciate how its audacious aesthetic offers a means of rethinking history and its representation in documentary.”

    Overnight (2011), a film that runs just under three minutes and was made in response to the 2011 London riots, is one of Marker’s last films. “At the level of content, the ambiguity in Overnight speaks to the meaning of the riots themselves, which remain a contested symbol, and to the power of political protest in the wake of the decline of the New Left movements of the 1960s,” writes Sarah Hamblin. “At the level of form, it speaks to the limits of the cinétract as a mode of politically oppositional filmmaking in the era of new media.”

    Kevin B. Lee has guest edited a collection of audiovisual essays for the new issue of Necsus, the European Journal of Media Studies whose theme for Spring 2017 is “#True.” The works he presents “address the question of how a cinephile becomes political” and “their relationships to protest and social activism amount to critique—critique of white supremacist political movements in [Steven Boone’s] ‘Snake Oil in N—–town’; of education programming against sex trafficking in [Kiera Sandusky’s] ‘Problems with the Gendered P.O.V. Shot in Lilya 4-Ever’; and of ISIS recruitment media in [Chloé Galibert-Laîné’s] ‘My Crush Was a Superstar.’” Anti-Banality Union’s “State of Emergence” is “a remix of zombie movies that reveals the anti-social, anti-humanist mania that drives them.”

    Features in this issue:

    • Elodie A. Roy’s conversation with media archaeologist Wolfgang Ernst.
    • Christian Ferencz-Flatz aims “to use phenomenology to better grasp [Walter] Benjamin and Benjamin to better grasp television spectatorship.”
    • Michael Witt “looks back at, takes stock of, and documents an experiment in audiovisual film studies that has been underway at the University of Roehampton for many years.”

    Ilona Hongisto, Toni Pape, and Alanna Thain introduce the special section, “#True”: “Since post-truth is the proverbial elephant in the room, we would like to problematise the concept.” This issue also features festival reports and exhibition reviews.

    One more journal for those who read Spanish, a tip from Adrian Martin, the newly launched Mutaciones.

    MORE READING

    The Notebook’s launched a new column, “Foreplays,” “exploring under-known shorts by renowned directors.” First up is Cristina Álvarez López on Walerian Borowczyk’s The Greatest Love of All Time (1978), a documentary portrait of Ljuba Popovic (1934-2016), “a Serbian painter interested in fantastical and erotic themes, highly influenced by Surrealism and Baroque art.” The film “has not been discussed nearly as much as his standard-length films or his early animations. Yet it stands as one of his most impressive works.”

    “Rarely does the Cannes competition, world cinema’s most pedigreed showcase, leave so little of a collective impression.” Writing for Artforum, Dennis Lim looks back on the seventieth-anniversary edition.

    Sofia Coppola won best director at Cannes this year, and with The Beguiled heading to theaters later this month, Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey revisits the 1971 version of the story, directed by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood, to “marvel at its complexity and peculiarity.”

    Interview, the magazine co-founded by Andy Warhol, has selected a few questions from Warhol’s writings and presented them to Mel Brooks. “Would you like some wine?,” for example. Brooks: “Only if it’s a magnum of 1961 Château Haut-Brion, a case of which was given to me by Alfred Hitchcock, with this note: ‘Dear Mel, have no anxiety over High Anxiety. It’s a truly wonderful film. Love, Hitch.’”

    And from June 26 through August 7, TCM will present an online course, The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock.

    GOINGS ON

    New York. The lineup for the sixteenth New York Asian Film Festival, running from June 30 through July 13, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema, is now set.

    So, too, is the lineup for Japan Cuts 2017, “North America’s largest festival of new Japanese cinema.” The eleventh edition runs from July 13 through 23.

    The BAMcinématek series Varda in California is on through June 13 and, at Screen Slate, Chris Shields recommends Agnès Varda’s 1969 short Black Panthers, “a work of art that is both energizing and edifying,” while Angeline Gragásin spotlights Documenteur (1981), “perhaps her most melancholy but by no means heavy-handed, the somber tone offset by her signature concoction of curiosity, sensuality, and love.”

    Also at Screen Slate, Karl McCool on Henry Cornelius’s Passport to Pimlico (1949), “one of the most beloved comedies produced at Ealing Studios.” As part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Print Screen series, novelist Hari Kunzru (White Tears) will discuss the film tomorrow evening with frieze co-editor Dan Fox.

    With A New Golden Age: Contemporary Philippine Cinema running at MoMA through June 25, Noel Vera offers a little historical context for the series.

    London. Previewing the inaugural edition of the Architecture Film Festival, opening today and running through Sunday, the Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright quotes Rem Koolhaas, a screenwriter before he was an architect: “The two professions—filmmaking and architecture—are very close. Both require a plot: you have to develop episodes . . . a kind of montage that creates interest and a sequence that gives the circulation, the path or the experience of a building a certain suspense.”

    Curitiba, Brazil. The sixth Olhar de Cinema opens tomorrow and runs through June 15.

    IN THE WORKS

    Last week, HBO landed Today Will Be Different, a limited series based on Maria Semple’s novel starring Julia Roberts. According to the Hollywood Reporter’s Kate Stanhope, Roberts is now “in talks to headline the TV drama series Homecoming from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail. Based on the fictional podcast of the same name, Homecoming is described as a political thriller centering on a caseworker at a secret government facility. Roberts would play the caseworker's supervisor.”

    “Almost two years after HBO hit pause on its film about the Penn State football scandal starring Al Pacino, the project is moving forward with a green light and a new director,” reports Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva. “Barry Levinson is set to direct and executive produce the movie, reuniting with Pacino and HBO.”

    THR’s Borys Kit reports that Jake Gyllenhaal will co-produce and star in a project for Amazon Studios based on Seth Meyerowitz and Peter Stevens’s book The Lost Airman: A True Story of Escape from Nazi-Occupied France.

    And Amazon Studios “has acquired Linda and Monica, the Black List script by Flint Wainess that details the budding friendship between D.C. pals Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky that imploded when it led to the revelation of the scandalous relationship between the White House intern and President Bill Clinton.” Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. reports.

    “Shudder, which says it ‘super-serves’ fans of thrillers, suspense and horror, is launching its original slate with the premiere of Primal Screen, a new horror documentary from Rodney Ascher (Room 237, The Nightmare),” reports THR’s Kimberly Nordyke. “In addition, Shudder has five other projects in development,” including “Riprore, which focuses on the heart of gangland Los Angeles, where a gruesome discovery sparks a frenetic homicide investigation,” with “Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins attached.”

    OBITS

    At Film Studies for Free, Catherine Grant remembers the late Italian cinema and culture scholar Peter Bondanella with a roundup of “some links to online works about him (including Gino Moliterno’s wonderful obituary), as well as by him.”

    “Roger Smith, who achieved semi-stardom as the adult Patrick Dennis opposite Rosalind Russell in 1958’s Auntie Mame and TV icon status opposite Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in ABC’s hip, hit detective series 77 Sunset Strip, died Sunday,” reports Jeremy Gerard for Deadline. Smith was eighty-four.

    “Peter Sallis, a much-loved face on British TV and known internationally as the voice of Wallace in the Wallace & Gromit animated films, has died.” Alex Ritman has more in the Hollywood Reporter. Sallis was ninety-six.

    VIEWING

    The Notebook’s Daniel Kasman and Kurt Walker talk with Kantemir Balagov about his debut feature, Closeness (5’42”). When it premiered in Cannes last month, Laurence Garcia called it “raw and undisciplined, but vibrating with life, the kind of bolt from the blue that turns an unknown into a director to watch.” More from Jessica Kiang (Variety) and Jonathan Romney (Film Comment).

    For SFMOMA’s Open Space, Isaac Goes writes about Miguel Mantecon’s Todo y Todo (2017) (10’58”), noting that “Mantecon’s cinema is emblematic of an ascendant mode of filmmaking—one recognizable in precursors such as Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie and Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language, and in recent work by young filmmakers like Isiah Medina, Alexandre Galmard, and Kurt Walker—characterized by the piecemeal suturing of home video footage into aberrant continuities.”

    Photo of Jacques Rivette by Raphael Van Sitteren (CC BY-SA 4.0). For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

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