• [The Daily] Issues: Fireflies and More

    By David Hudson

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    On Saturday, Fireflies founding editors Annabel Brady-Brown and Giovanni Marchini Camia will launch Issue 5 at Wolf Studio in Berlin. The event will feature live performances from artists Sam Smith (video), Puck Vonk (sound), and Eli Cortiñas (lecture), all of whom have contributed work to the new issue. Since the first one appeared in 2014, Fireflies has consistently demonstrated that print remains a vital medium for criticism and artistic expression. And I suppose it’s here that I should mention that I know Annabel and Giovanni and occasionally run into one, the other, or both here in Berlin. That won’t keep me, though, from commending the work they’ve done with art director James Geoffrey Nunn. Lay all five issues out on a table and, at first glance, it appears that Nunn has re-conceived Fireflies each time out, but the essential format remains the same. Each issue addresses the work of two filmmakers and, while some of the pairings make intuitive sense, others set the synapses firing: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Issue 1), Abbas Kiarostami and Béla Tarr (2), Claire Denis and Jia Zhangke (3), Pedro Costa and Ben Rivers (4), and now, Angela Schanelec and Agnès Varda.

    Varda is probably as great a presence in our culture now as she’s ever been. The past few years have seen not only revivals and retrospectives of her films but also exhibitions of her art around the world. And of course, since the premiere in Cannes of Faces Places, the film she’s made with JR, she and her new collaborator have been tirelessly giving interviews for months now. In Fireflies, we now find a wide range of responses to her work: personal essays from Agnés Godard, Luc Sante, and Wayne Koestenbaum, for example, photography from Camille Piquot, art by Eli Cortiñas, and more.

    Schanelec is a different story. In their editorial, Annabel and Giovanni ask, “[H]ow could an artist with such an assertive, singular voice, one who demonstrates such an imposing mastery of film language and exemplary commitment to seeking out novel, genuinely cinematic forms of expression, not occupy a more prominent space in the discourse? . . . Alongside critics, we’ve invited novelists and poets, as well as filmmakers and artists who work with video, sound, and sculpture, to discuss, dismantle, reinterpret and creatively play with Schanelec’s films.”

    Visually, this is one of the liveliest issues of Fireflies yet and among its many highlights are extensive interviews Giovanni’s conducted with both filmmakers. Issue 5 is a book of both literal and figurative heft.

    ONLINE

    As editors Alina Haliliuc and Jesse Schlotterbeck note in their introduction to the new special issue of Film Criticism on New Romanian Cinema, the journal ran a special issue on the Romanian New Wave back in 2010. And yet, despite the “slow-paced storytelling, a minimalist aesthetic, and a preoccupation with the grim realities of communist and recently post-communist life” of most RNW films, their directors carry on “garnering further international recognition.” The focus here, then, is on that endurance as well as “newer films that have not yet received scholarly attention.” The contributors state their intentions:

    • Jennifer Stob: “Corneliu Porumboiu’s Police, Adjective flips the ‘script of delinquency’ that Anne Gillain has famously identified in New Wave classic, The 400 Blows.
    • Chris Robé “explores three films—4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007), 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006), and Police, Adjective (2009)—to see how communist ‘structures of feeling’ suffuse various time periods: the Ceauşescu regime, the anniversary of the revolution, and a post-communist world.”
    • Marie-Louise Paulesc “examines the strategies by which The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceauşescu (2010) engages in memory work and dramatizes the complex relationships between cinema, history, and memory.”
    • Chris Cagle argues that Romania “has been robust in its nonfiction output, adopting broader genres of the international festival documentary while developing a dialogue between nationally specific material and transnational audience address.”
    • Andrei Gorzo presents “an exploration and a critique of the intellectual foundations of [the RNW] aesthetic, as formulated in [Cristi] Puiu’s many interviews and statements.”
    • Raluca Iacob “analyzes the initial manifestations of Romanian and Argentinian ‘new waves’: in particular, their distinction from previous filmmaking styles in these countries.”
    • Anca Caramelea “discusses the musical landscape of Romanian New Wave films, focusing on the implications of specific songs and the generally spare use of music.”

    Karin Luisa Badt looks back on this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival, Gerd Gemünden writes about the Berlinale, and Eleanor Patterson reports on the International Conference on Television, Audio, New Media, and Feminism that took place in North Carolina in July.

    Plus:

    And the book reviews:

    The new issue of the multilingual journal La Furia Umana features a special section on “Cinema and Theatre Today” that includes a piece Matías Piñeiro wrote on September 12. The date’s a significant point of orientation. Once he’s told us how it’s come to be that he’s built a filmography based on his reading of Shakespeare, he tells us that he’s just now, this very day, put in a request at his university for equipment to shoot Portia this coming January. “I am taking the scene of the caskets from The Merchant of Venice.” And once again, he’ll be working with María Villar.

    LFU 32 also has a section on the actor and director Richard Quine. Will Straw: “He has been relegated to the list of journeyman directors of uneven accomplishment, of whom even the most dogmatic auteurists have had little to say. The other, more intriguing understanding of Quine casts him as a morbid historical symptom. From this perspective, he is of interest primarily as a casualty of what [Kevin John Bozelka in this issue] calls the ‘awkward interzone between the classical Hollywood cinema and the New Hollywood.’” And, focusing on It Happened to Jane (1959), Fredrik Gustafsson argues that “Quine was also a fine filmmaker, not least during his years at Columbia in the 1950s.”

    Also in this issue—in English: Alain Hertay talks with Matthew David Wilder about adapting Edward Bunker’s 1997 novel Dog Eat Dog for Paul Schrader, Eirik Frisvold Hanssen writes about Seijun Suzuki, and Stephen Broomer has been restoring films by the Canadian painter Greg Curnoe.

    Last week’s issue of the TLS is a special one devoted to film and online we find James Campbell taking Truffaut on Cinema, a collection of interviews edited by Anne Gillain and translated by Alistair Fox, and François Truffaut’s own Hitchcock as an opportunity to consider the career as a whole: “‘The literary aspect of the nouvelle vague is heavily criticized,’ Truffaut says in an interview here, though unfortunately he does not say by whom. Immersed in the history of cinema—the preoccupation with hommage is perhaps the most tiresome aspect of the nouvelle vague—Truffaut is nevertheless among the most literary of filmmakers. Until the end (he died in 1984, aged fifty-two), he was inclined to reach for a book in order to construct a film. ‘I like the word “story,”’ he says. ‘I am 100 per cent in favor of the novelistic approach to films.’”

    Muriel Zagha: “What makes the charm of [Bertrand Tavernier’s Voyage à travers le cinéma français (A Journey Through French Cinema, 2016)] is its variety of tone and content: woven in with subtle character studies of auteurs and actors and previously unseen behind-the-scenes footage are Tavernier’s vivid memories of the neighborhood cinemas of his youth in Lyon: one where a bored stripper would get off her chair to perform half-heartedly between screenings, or another where a young Tavernier once sat next to a man who, during the projection, opened, heated up and ate a tin of peas.”

    And, reviewing Marc Eliot’s Charlton Heston: Hollywood's Last Icon, Graham Daseler suspects that “Eliot would rather be writing a novel than a biography.”

    “The Poetics of Eye Tracking” is the theme of the new special issue of [in]Transition, the journal in which audiovisual essays are introduced by their creators and reviewed by those creators’ peers. “The four videographic essays that make up this special edition have developed out of the work pioneered by the Eye Tracking and the Moving Image Research group,” note editors Tessa Dwyer, Claire Perkins, and Sean Redmond. “ETMI was set up in late 2012 by Jodi Sita, a neuroscientist, and Sean Redmond, a film and television theorist.” Viewed and reviewed:

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