Film Comment and Much More

Robert Pattinson is on the cover of the new issue of Film Comment and online we find a brief excerpt from editor Nicolas Rapold’s interview with the star of Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time.

Amy Taubin describes what, for her, is “the most indelible moment” in Bong Joon-ho’s Okja: “[P]re-teen heroine Mija (An Seo-Hyun) looks down when she feels something icky on her legs only to discover that she is ankle-deep in blood. The image marks the moment in which Okja completes its gradual metamorphosis from a satirical action-adventure into a full-fledged horror movie.”

Also online are four reports from Cannes 2017:

  • Taubin writes about Agnès Varda and JR’s “unassuming masterpiece” Visages Villages (Faces Places), Good Time (“the Safdies have found their own genre-savvy filmmaking voice”), Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck (“a film that earns its title”), Sean Baker’s The Florida Project, Philippe Garrel’s Lover for a Day, Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return, and Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake: China Girl.
  • For Kent Jones, “the relegation of the cinéma d’auteur to the level of a minor genre to be not so benignly tolerated in the supposedly greater adult realities of the film world at the Cannes Film Festival, once a true home for the cinema, truly stings.” He also writes about Lover for a Day,The Florida Project (“a revelatory experience”), Barbet Schroeder’s “very tough” The Venerable W, Tony Zierra’s “fascinating portrait” Filmworker, and Wonderstruck.
  • Hong Sangsoo “may be working too quickly for us to fully grasp the intricacies of a body of work unlike any other, a corpus both seamlessly coherent and sneakily unpredictable,” notes Dennis Lim, writing not only about The Day After and Claire’s Camera, but also Valeska Grisebach’s Western (“the closest this festival came to a major work”), Pedro Pinho’s The Nothing Factory (“a serious look at the role of work today”), and Emmanuel Gras’s Makala, which “locates an epic dimension in the humblest of existences.”
  • Nicolas Rapold: “Good movies (Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts, Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck) were dismissed for reasons that will make little sense a year from now; deficient movies (Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here) were praised as if people had taken the day off from writing critically; and preapproved, absolutely fine movies were, well, approved (Léonor Serraille’s award-winning Jeune femme).” But Sergei Loznitsa’s A Gentle Creature brings “its own special energy to a Russian tradition of grotesque social panoramas.” Also: Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute), Claude Lanzmann’s Napalm, Kornél Mundruczó’s “dopey Eurothriller” Jupiter’s Moon—and then it’s back to You Were Never Really Here.

Eliza Hittman “is rapidly becoming a crucial American portraitist of the fragility of youth,” writes Michael Koresky, reviewing Beach Rats. More reviews from the July/August 2017 issue:

  • Margaret Barton-Fumo on Dustin Guy Defa’s Person to Person, “a web of breezy vignettes that perfectly captures the experience of living in New York City circa 2017 by way of 1979.”
  • Ela Bittencourt on Andrzej Zulawski’s L’Important c’est d’aimer (That Most Important Thing: Love, 1975): “This passionate portrait of the dignity—and the indignities—of an actor’s work is one of his best films.”
  • Ella Taylor on Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime, “refreshingly free of the rote doom and gloom that clings to many movies addressing the Great Tech Takeover.”
  • Violet Lucca on Endless Poetry: “Picking up where The Dance of Reality (his return to filmmaking after a 23-year absence) left off, [Alejandro] Jodoroswky’s latest ‘autobiography’ explores his days as a young poet in Santiago, Chile.”
  • Farran Smith Nehme on The Beguiled, noting that Sofia Coppola’s “screenplay meticulously softens or eliminates everything that was bold and frightening about Don Siegel’s 1971 film version.”
  • Chloe Lizotte on Katherine Dieckmann’s Strange Weather, “a story of grief couched in a road movie” with Holly Hunter.
  • Michael Sragow on Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes, “stirring, immersive entertainment.” And Andy Serkis’s Caesar is “the most nuanced, dynamic leader in big-screen sci-fi today.”
  • And Nicolas Rapold on Lady Macbeth: Director William Oldroyd and screenwriter Alice Birch “seem to want to cram the passion and intrigue of an entire opera into 89 minutes of closely staged, single-location filmmaking.”

“Yes,” writes Eric Hynes in a piece on Laura Poitras’s Risk and Mark Grieco’s A River Below, “to be a documentary filmmaker is to be some glorious mix of artist, journalist, psychologist, and empath. But to be a documentary filmmaker is also to be a vampire. And an enabler. And a dupe. At minimum, it requires risking being all of these things.”

More Reading

Recently, while taking in Louise Lawler’s A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture,Thomas Beard’s mind wandered to Close Up, a magazine published from 1927 to 1933 by H.D., Bryher, and Kenneth Macpherson. As he notes in a piece for the Metrograph, it ran a regular column by Dorothy Richardson, “Continuous Performance”:

Though somewhat forgotten today and largely, regrettably out of print, in her time Richardson was hailed as a major modernist writer, regularly mentioned in the same breath as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf; it was to her novel Pointed Roofs, in fact, that the term “stream of consciousness” was first applied to literature. Lawler brought Richardson to mind because the latter’s contributions to Close Up were in many cases less about specific films or filmmakers—a soaring appreciation of Chaplin manages to never once mention him by name—than the social architecture of the picture palace, the peculiarities of its atmosphere, or matters that could otherwise appear peripheral. They stand, in my estimation, as some of the great essays about moviegoing ever written, handily available for the curious on the Internet Archive. She revealed how much there is to see at the cinema, if we simply look beyond the screen.

For the inaugural issue of One + One, Chris Fujiwara writes about Typhoon Club (1985) and “Somai Shinji’s strategy of getting us to accept the subjective position of the middle-school students who are his protagonists: literally in the middle, neither one thing nor the other, not yet become, not yet decided.”

James N. Kienitz Wilkins “has successfully adapted some of the most critical weapons in the arsenal of experimental cinema to produce a stark poetry of the everyday,” writes Michael Sicinski. “Kienitz Wilkins’s newest ‘film,’ The Republic, is quite possibly his most radical effort to date.” The Notebook has also posted writer Robin Schavoir and Kienitz Wilkins’s introduction to The Republic.

Also in the Notebook, Cristina Álvarez López writes that, in Gasman (1998), Lynne Ramsay “makes the drama take flight through a concentration on looks and gestures, a precise orchestration of the distance and proximity between bodies, and a careful treatment of sound, movement, and visual composition.”

For the New Republic,Moira Donegan revisits Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman (1996), which “follows Cheryl, played by Dunye, as she attempts to make a documentary about Faye Richards, better known as the Watermelon Woman: a gay, black 1930s actress whose roles as mammies and housemaids did not do justice to her elusive and complex life. In the process, Cheryl works her day job at a video rental store, begins a relationship with a white woman, and learns more about black women’s history—in film, in the gay community, and in her native Philadelphia—than she ever anticipated.”

Here’s a blog to follow, via Jonathan Rosenbaum:Umbra, “a quarterly newspaper on screen culture published by Lightcube out of India.”

It’s James Benning Day at DC’s.


For the Australian Humanities Review,Sam Dickson reviews Adrian Martin’s Mise en Scène and Film Style: From Classical Hollywood to New Media Art: “Rather than arguing at the outset for an essential understanding of mise en scène, the book introduces an historical account of the concept’s various definitions and uses as well as, through a set of exemplary close readings, helpful suggestions of its analytic potential for contemporary film theorists.”

Yesterday marked a full year since the passing of Abbas Kiarostami. Godfrey Cheshire for IndieWire: “His unexpected death was a jolt not only because I regard him as one of past century’s greatest artists in any medium, one whose work I’ve been writing about for a quarter century. More than that, he was a good friend. When I first met him in 1994, there was an immediate rapport, mainly, I think, because he sensed I got both his intelligence and his playful wit. . . . The decision I made on hearing of his death was not at all rational or carefully considered. It was instinctual and almost instantaneous. I thought, ‘I now must finish that book.’ It was the first and best thing I could think of to pay tribute to him.” The book is In the Time of Kiarostami: Writings on Iranian Cinema and the Indiegogo, on through the end of the month, will help launch it.

Neil Snowdon, editor of We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale, has spoken to Joe Dante for the collection about the British screenwriter best known for the Quatermass serials and films (1953-1979) and The Stone Tape (1972). Electric Sheep presents a generous excerpt from the interview.

Writing for Film International,Tony Williams recommends Roberto Curti’s Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker, “an impressive work characterized by persuasive prose, well-researched footnotes, and bibliography/filmography in terms of a director whose work is relatively unknown outside areas of the European film community and American experts such as Tim Lucas and others. While critically aware of Riccardo Freda’s personal failings and cinematic misfires, Curti has written an important study that . . . [reveals] a very significant talent who does not deserve solitary confinement to Italian Gothic horror for which he is most well-known, good as these films are.”


Boston Review fiction editor Junot Díaz (and the author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) talks with Margaret Atwood about her novel The Handmaid’s Tale and the new Hulu series: “In 1985 it was only a possibility. In some places in the United States today, it’s approaching reality.”

“Actually I have yet to receive an official invitation from the Academy,” Takashi Miike tells James Marsh at ScreenAnarchy. “However, it would be better if my films were selected by the Academy rather than me. I would like that more than being the person who selects which films get recognized.”

Guy Lodge profiles Sofia Coppola for the Observer. They talk about The Beguiled, of course, but also: “‘I would really love to direct Eddie Murphy,’ she says, a slight twinkle disrupting her thoughtful expression. ‘I’ve always been such a fan of his, and I wish he would do something interesting.’ I’m intrigued to find out where the worlds of Sofia Coppola and Eddie Murphy might collide, I say. ‘So am I,’ she laughs. ‘I’ll try to figure it out.’”

The New Yorker’s Tad Friend meets up with Holly Hunter to discuss The Big Sick and Strange Weather. “In each, she plays a fiercely protective mother, a role in her by now familiar wheelhouse, which she characterized as ‘forthright, strong, blah blah blah.’”

For the Los Angeles Times,Scott Tobias talks with Amanda Kernell, daughter of a Sami father and a Swedish mother, about her first feature, Sámi Blood: “I wanted to find two sisters who had grown up with reindeer herding because I wanted them to be able to use a knife and handle big reindeer as [Lene Cecilia] does by the end. . . . I wanted to find the Katniss Everdeen of Sápmi, the Sami region, and I think she is.”


“What film most compelling sells you on the promise of America’s potential?” asks David Ehrlich, introducing the latest IndieWire Critics Survey.

André Loiselle, author of books on Michel Brault, Denys Arcand, and Canadian horror films, lists his top “100 Best Canadian Films” at the Toronto Film Review.

And listing the best films of 2017 (so far) are the staff at the Film Stage and Ioncinema’s Eric Lavallée.

In Other News

Annette Bening has been named president of the International Jury of the seventy-fourth Venice International Film Festival (August 30 through September 9).

The Locarno Film Festival will present its Leopard Club Award to Adrien Brody during its seventieth edition (August 2 through 12).

“Italy’s iconic Cinecittà Studios, where Ben-Hur and other classics were filmed, is returning to state ownership after nearly a decade in private hands, with a planned revamp involving the construction of two new soundstages on the studios’ backlot,” reports Variety’s Nick Vivarelli.

Tim and Donna Lucas have announced that a Farewell Issue of Video Watchdog is now available in both print and digital editions. Contributors include Kim Newman, Budd Wilkins, and of course, Tim Lucas himself: “I'm glad that I was able to get one last Jess Franco review in there.”

The European Parliament has announced the ten films in the running for its LUX Prize this year:

  • Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s King of the Belgians
  • Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute)
  • Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra
  • Valeska Grisebach’s Western
  • Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s Glory
  • Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s Heartstone
  • Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope
  • Amanda Kernell’s Sámi Blood
  • Jan P. Matuszyński’s The Last Family
  • Carla Simón’s Summer 1993

“Films by Andrey Zvyagintsev [Loveless], Pedro Pinho [The Nothing Factory], and Tom Lass [Ugly & Blind] were among the winners at the 35th Filmfest München which came to a close on Saturday evening,” reports Martin Blaney for Screen.

Goings On

Los Angeles. On Thursday, Cinefamily presents Chris Marker’s The Sixth Side of the Pentagon (1967) and new work by 8BALL TV; and then on Saturday, Eric Rohmer’s La Collectionneuse (1967).

Berlin. Starting this Friday, “Stil in Berlin’s godchild, the Berlin Art Film Festival, launches its summer open air program with a pretty rad selection of daring Berlin films with English subtitles for five Fridays in a row.”

For more goings on, see Monday’s entry and today’s on Ford to City: Drop Dead - New York in the 70s; meantime, keep an eye on the updates to the entries on two ongoing festivals, Karlovy Vary and the New York Asian, as well as the just-wrapped Cinema Ritrovato.

In the Works

“As much as A Ghost Story is experimental, to me The Old Man and the Gun feels experimental as well.” That’s David Lowery at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, as quoted by Orlando Parfitt for Screen. “I think all of us wanted to pay tribute to our lead actor Robert Redford . . . and wanted to make a film that is in many ways a tribute to his career, the roles he’s played and the legend that he is in the world of cinema.” Parfitt: “The Old Man and the Gun is based on the true story of Forrest Tucker, from his escape from San Quentin at the age of 70 to an unprecedented string of heists that confounded authorities and enchanted the public.”

Maxine Peake “has joined the ensemble cast of Mike Leigh's upcoming period drama Peterloo,” according to Alex Ritman in the Hollywood Reporter. “The film—which is currently shooting—tells the story of a pivotal moment in UK history, when the British army attacked a large group of protestors in Manchester who had gathered to demand parliamentary reform amid a period of severe economic depression.”

“One week before production is scheduled to start on writer-director Ondi Timoner’s Mapplethorpe, the biopic starring Matt Smith as photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Imposters actress Marianne Rendón has been cast as Patti Smith,” reports Graham Winfrey for IndieWire. “What the film doesn’t have, however, is the support of Patti Smith.”

François Cluzet stars in Jean Becker’s Le Collier rouge, “set in a small town brought to its knees by the summer heat of 1919.” Shooting wraps next week, reports Fabien Lemercier at Cineuropa.

AsianWiki reports that Kim Ki-duk has completed shooting on The Time of Humans, which “takes place on a battleship with a wide variety of people on the ship. They include a gang boss played by Ryoo Seung-Bum, a cruel guy named Adam played by Jang Keun-Suk, a Japanese woman named Eve played by Mina Fuji and her boyfriend played by Joe Odagiri.”

“After being blacklisted by the government of disgraced former President Park Geun-hye, award-winning South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-kyong said he has resubmitted his rejected proposal for a horror film project now that a new government has come on board,” reports Vivienne Chow for Variety. No title is mentioned, but it’ll be “about a ghost world in the mountains.”


“Heathcote Williams, the radical poet, playwright, actor and polymathic English genius, has died at the age of 75,” reports the Guardian’s Luke Harding. “Scruffy on screen and off, Williams appeared in several films, often in cameo roles. He was a notable Prospero in Derek Jarman’s 1979 production of The Tempest. Other credits were Sally Potter’s arthouse Orlando, based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, and Hollywood’s Basic Instinct 2.” More from Jeremy Harding, writing for the London Review of Books: “Rough and ready is the best way I can think of to describe the Williams poetics.”

“Skip Homeier, who played the menacing Nazi youth in the 1944 drama Tomorrow, the World! before appearing in scores of Westerns, war films and TV shows, has died.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Mike Barnes notes that Homeier appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek series and “was memorable as a foolhardy man looking to make a reputation as a gunslinger in The Gunfighter (1950), starring Gregory Peck, and he played the jittery soldier Riley ‘Pretty Boy’ Duncannon in Lewis Milestone's Halls of Montezuma (1951) and the hit man Roxey in the Alaska-set film noir Cry Vengeance (1954), starring Mark Stevens.”

“Paolo Villaggio, a comic actor whose invented workplace characters interpreted Italians' foibles, died Monday in Rome at 84,” reports the AP. “Fellow comic actor Roberto Benigni says Villaggio's iconic character, accountant Ugo Fantozzi, ‘represented us all.’ Villaggio invented the Fantozzi character, first in a book, then as the main character in ten films. ‘He was a pitiless child, revolutionary and liberating’ and the ‘greatest clown of his generation,’ Benigni said of Villaggio's most celebrated roles. . . . Villaggio, a cabaret, TV and film actor, appeared along with Benigni in Federico Fellini's last movie, La Voce della Luna in 1990.”


Talk Easy host Sam Fragoso talks with New York Times film critic A. O. Scott about that list of the top twenty-five films of the twenty-first century (so far) that he wrote with Manohla Dargis, and also about the television versus movies debate, the state of film criticism, and more (72’21”).

“What do we talk about when we talk about independent film?” The latest Film Comment Podcast (56’04”) features BAMcinématek programmer Nellie Killian, filmmaker, critic, and archivist Gina Telaroli, FC digital producer Violet Lucca, and FC editor Nicolas Rapold.

Sample Sam Adams and Carrie Rickey’s discussion of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981) at Slate (9’26”).

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