Ophuls, Bonello, and More

Ian Buruma, who’ll become the new editor of the New York Review of Books next month, has a piece in the new issue on The Memory of Justice, “the four-and-a-half-hour documentary that has rarely been seen since 1976 but is considered by its director, Marcel Ophuls, to be his best—even better, perhaps, than his more famous The Sorrow and the Pity (1969).” Among the questions The Memory of Justice addresses are “What makes human beings who are normally unexceptional commit atrocities under abnormal circumstances?” and “What if such crimes are committed by our fellow citizens in the name of our own country?” Buruma also notes that Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation teamed up with Paramount to expedite the film’s “narrow escape from oblivion.”

Also in the NYRB,J. Hoberman:Nocturama, the French filmmaker Bertrand Bonello’s daring and controversial follow-up to his 2014 Yves Saint Laurent biopic, is even more relentlessly stylish than its predecessor—an abstract thriller predicated on its young characters’ fantasies of taking revenge on the system and, less consciously perhaps, of liberating its largesse. The terrorists are ciphers but the movie is only superficially shallow. At once timely and timeless, it sets the aftermath of two centuries of French history to a hypnotic, trancelike beat.”

On a related note, the latest Close-Up from the Film Society of Lincoln Center features Michael Koresky, Dan Sullivan, and Violet Lucca discussing Nocturama and Deeper into Nocturama, a series of films selected by Bonello screening from August 18 through 24. This episode (55’18”) also features an interview with Bonello conducted in March.

“In some ways Christopher Nolan has become our Stanley Kubrick,” writes David Bordwell. “Many directors have found ways to turn genre movies into art films; think of Wes Anderson and comedy, or Paul Thomas Anderson and melodrama. But seldom does the result become both a prestige picture and an event film.” Following up on Kristin Thompson’s entry on Dunkirk, Bordwell focuses on Nolan’s interest in “subjective storytelling, and how it interacts with a very traditional film technique: crosscutting.”

“When German documentarian Peter Nestler sees a glass, he doesn't just see a glass,” writes Bedatri D. Choudhury. “He sees factories, he sees furnaces that melt the glass and he sees hands that toil and mold it. When he sees a city, he sees the hills, the roads and the sluice, and then looks more intently at the children running on the road, the women carrying their babies to work and the men playing cards in a bar. He sees layers within the unidimensional cinema space and reads the politics, the geography and the history through the people he sees, especially the children.”

Also in the Notebook: Chelsea Phillips-Carr on Jean Renoir’s The Testament of Dr. Cordelier (1959) and Camilo Restrepo on his 2015 film, Impression of a War.

At the Talkhouse Film, Michael Almereyda (Escapes,Marjorie Prime) writes about Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum’s Letters from Baghdad (2016), “both a character study and a chronicle, tracing the trajectory of Gertrude Bell (1868–1926), an Englishwoman who found herself—her voice, her vocation, her reason to exist—through travel in the Middle East at a time when an independent European woman in that part of the world was an absolute anomaly. Bell’s letters, read with wonderful chromatic shading by Tilda Swinton, give the film its chief structure and dramatic thread, detailing her exploits as a tourist/scholar and—when she mastered Persian, Arabic and camel-riding—as an amazingly intrepid writer, explorer, archeologist, photographer, mapmaker and government intermediary given a hand in shaping what became Iraq.”

Writing about Anthony Mann, Jeremy Carr argues that “what designates T-Men [1947] and Raw Deal [1948] as instantly identifiable noir entries is their prominent pictorial panache.” Mann and cinematographer John Alton “take what is already a heightened genre and somehow intensify its formal qualities. . . . Mann was surely one of Hollywood’s great visualists, repeatedly orchestrating a range of variable angles, lenses and painstaking lighting designs, as well as expertly edited juxtapositions of shot size, where spacious arrangements slam into close-ups and back again.”

Also at Vague Visages, Forrest Cardamenis considers a program of ten documentaries selected by Sergei Loznitsa.

“Between 1945 and 1968, [W. Lee] Wilder produced and directed seventeen features in every conceivable genre, from crime melodramas to sci-fi, Westerns, spy thrillers and jungle adventures,” writes Jim Knipfel at the Chiseler. “I’m fully convinced in his own mind he was making traditionally crowd-pleasing mainstream genre movies like his brother”—yes, Billy—“but thank god he was mistaken.”

Jon Lewis’s Hard-Boiled Hollywood “is, in the author’s own description, ‘a book about dead bodies left by the side of the road in post-war Los Angeles,’” notes Oliver Harris in the TLS. “It tells an alternative history of Hollywood’s awkward adolescence. In the 1940s and 50s, millions flocked to L.A. to partake in a golden age that was already over. This disjunction is central to Lewis’s thesis: between 1940 and 1960, L.A.’s population more than doubled from 3.2 million to 7.8 million; in the same period, output from the film studios halved. That left a lot of new arrivals at a loose end. Three films provide a jumping-off point: Sunset Boulevard (1950), In a Lonely Place (1950) and The Big Knife (1955). All involve the death of a film worker and an industry in transition. But Lewis’s novel angle is to move beyond the screen to the mean streets themselves.”

In a piece for the Village Voice called “The Restoration Revolution,” Michael Atkinson writes about a couple of big boxes, Criterion’s Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project No. 2 and Flicker Alley’s Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology, as well as Arrow Films’ Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism and, from Kino Lorber, Josef von Sternberg’s Anatahan (1953).

“It was a winter spent in the company of Potemkine’s lovingly-prepared collection of Rohmer’s entire filmography that finally brought me around to him,” writes Adam Batty.

For AnOther,Belle Hutton looks back on the films—and style—of “Hollywood’s Mermaid,” Esther Williams.


“Tragedy, loss, and confrontation are very present in your films,” Connor Jessup tells Hirokazu Kore-eda via email for the TIFF Review, “but usually by omission.” Kore-eda: “Indeed, I like the scar better than the wound. I don’t know why. I think I feel there is a past and a future if we use our imagination.”

In the New York Times,Dave Itzkoff suggests that Steven Soderbergh “sees the moviemaking process—when it’s executed correctly—as its own perfect crime. As Mr. Soderbergh explained, ‘You’ve got a crazy idea. Odds are, it’s not going to work out, or at least not going to go the way you think. You put a team together, things go wrong, you come out the other end and hopefully you survive.’”

Rüdiger Sturm discusses politics and spirituality with Richard Gere for The Talks.


Jonathan Rosenbaum’s posted a piece he wrote ten year’s ago on “Ten Underappreciated John Ford Films.”

At the Playlist, Jessica Kiang presents a list of the “25 Best Westerns of All Time.”

At the A.V. Club, Mike D'Angelo, A.A. Dowd, Jesse Hassenger, Noel Murray, and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky write up a top twenty, the “best movies of 1997.”

Samuel Wigley writes about “10 great French films of the 1970s” for the BFI.

In Other News

“On Tuesday, Disney announced that it would be pulling, at the very least, its Disney- and Pixar-branded work from Netflix at the conclusion of their licensing deal in 2019, at which point the Mouse House will be at some stage of launching their own subscription streaming service,” writes Kevin Lincoln, and here’s the point he elaborates on at Vulture: “While Disney has yet to determine the fate of its Star Wars and Marvel properties, which are currently cornerstones of the increasingly limited Netflix licensed-movie library, the takeaway from the move isn’t the ultimate fate of any particular franchise—it’s that we’re entering the next phase of the streaming evolution, one that Netflix saw coming years ago.”

“In a surprise twist, cinematographer John Bailey became the 36th president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Tuesday night,” reports Michael Cieply for Deadline. “His election marks a victory for below-the-line workers in the 7,000-member group, many of whom have been wary of growing attention to high-profile actors and directors, and have feared they might eventually find themselves shoved from the limelight during the annual Oscar show.”

Following its acquisition of Valeska Grisebach’s Western, Cinema Guild has now picked up two of the three films Hong Sangsoo has made so far this year, reports Elbert Wyche for Screen. Kim Minhee won a Silver Bear in Berlin for her performance in On the Beach at Night Alone and Claire’s Camera premiered in Cannes. The third, the one that actually screened in Competition in Cannes, The Day After, remains without U.S. distribution.

Goings On

New York. The BAMcinématek series Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold is on through August 24, and this past weekend, Paul Thomas Anderson was in New York to talk about his “favorite, top-of-the-line filmmaker.” For IndieWire, Jude Dry reports on what PTA had to say about what he admires in the late director’s work.

“Demme occasionally worked in a mode that I like to call first-person humanism, when a director latches onto the perspective of one character and most of the film is fundamentally in reaction to the main character’s actions or state of mind,” writes Willow Maclay in a piece for the Film Stage on Rachel Getting Married (2008), screening tonight.

Buenos Aires.James Benning will be at the National Museum of Fine Arts tomorrow evening to give a talk and present measuring change (2016).

More goings on? See yesterday’s entry.

In the Works

For New York Magazine,Jason McBride meets Dennis Cooper, once labeled “the most dangerous writer in America,” who’s currently “reinventing himself in the model of his idol Bresson.” Cooper’s in France, working on Permanent Green Light, a film that “turns on a young man’s obsession with killing himself in a spectacular way.”

For more on projects in the works, see the entry posted earlier today.


“Glen Campbell, the sweet-voiced, guitar-picking son of a sharecropper who became a recording, television and movie star in the 1960s and ’70s, waged a publicized battle with alcohol and drugs and gave his last performances while in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, died on Tuesday in Nashville,” reports Michael Pollak for the New York Times. “In 1969, Mr. Campbell had his most famous movie role, the nonsinging part of a Texas Ranger who joins forces with John Wayne and Kim Darby to hunt down the killer of Ms. Darby’s father, in the original version of True Grit.” Campbell was eighty-one.

More Listening

In the seventh chapter of Jean and Jane (69’41”), the You Must Remember This series, Karina Longworth tells us what happened when Jane Fonda went to Vietnam to become branded “Hanoi Jane.” And Jean Seberg’s life takes a terrible turn: “Having wiretapped a phone call between Jean and a Black Panther about her pregnancy, the FBI decided to ‘neutralize’ both Seberg and her unborn child.”

With ’77, a series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, on through August 24, Maitland McDonagh, Margaret Barton-Fumo, and Violet Lucca come together for the new Film Comment Podcast (49’11”) to discuss The Hills Have Eyes,Suspiria,The American Friend,Sorcerer, and 3 Women as well as “the appeal of the year’s top-grossing film, Star Wars.

On NPR’s Fresh Air, Lloyd Schwartz reviews Ross Lipman’s Notfilm, a documentary about the making of Samuel Beckett’s Film (1965) with Buster Keaton (7’12”).

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