“The return of Twin Peaks in 2017 came like a Taser shock to the ‘golden age of television,’ overturning audience expectations for what Twin Peaks—and TV—could encompass, both in narrative and form,” writes Aliza Ma in the new issue of Film Comment. “With its narrative fissures and variety of abstract mise en scène, The Return has blown established forms of television wide open and generated some of the most sublime digital artwork of all time.”
In a companion piece, Violet Lucca notes that David Lynch’s “initial foray into filmmaking—1967’s Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times), made while he was still a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts—was the result of his desire to make his paintings move. Why his cross-media output isn’t usually considered as a whole speaks to the richness of his films, the isolated nature of the art world, and the lack of film writers who are familiar or comfortable enough with art to think that way.”
“Félicité may be Alain Gomis’s least overtly political film,” writes Jonathan Romney, “but this French-Senegalese director has consistently explored themes of hybrid identity in the post-colonial world. The title of his first feature, L’Afrance (2001), says it all: the film addresses the experience of inhabiting a place, or a state of being, that is neither la France nor l’Afrique, yet is somehow (soul-destroyingly? or invigoratingly?) both at once.”
In the run-up to The Non-Actor (November 24 through December 10), a series curated by Thomas Beard and Dennis Lim that the Film Society of Lincoln Center calls “a historical survey of the myriad ways in which filmmakers have used so-called amateurs to reimagine the language of cinema and to investigate—and perhaps fundamentally change—the medium’s relationship with the realities it depicts,” Chris Shields introduces a round of interviews: “While Pedro Costa, Tsai Ming-liang, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul have all spoken and written about employing non-actors, we invited several more filmmakers and casting directors to shed light on the practical and conceptual dimensions of the practice, and the how, where, and why of casting a non-actor for a role.” Discussing their experiences are assistant director Sompot Chidgasornpongse (Tropical Malady, Cemetery of Splendor), director Eliza Hittman (It Felt Like Love, Beach Rats), casting director Ellen Lewis (Goodfellas, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Post), casting director Kathleen Crawford (Under the Skin; I, Daniel Blake), and director Ronald Bronstein (Frownland).
The reviews from the November/December 2017 issue:
- Violet Lucca on Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya
- Molly Haskell on Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name
- Andrew Chan on Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Daughter of the Nile (1987)
- Sheila O’Malley on Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird
- Nick Pinkerton on Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- Michael Koresky on Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying
- Steven Mears on Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water
- Michael Sragow on Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok
- Aliza Ma on Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy
- Devika Girish on Aki Kaurismäki’s The Other Side of Hope
- Margaret Barton-Fumo on Joachim Trier’s Thelma
There’s also a list of “20 Discs to Watch” and “20 Titles to Stream.”
Recent online features from Film Comment include Michael Sragow’s review Ferenc Török’s 1945 and Ela Bittencourt’s piece on Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, “an ever-vital figure for today’s Brazilian political cinema.”
“The time has come to rethink which films should be valued, taught and appreciated,” writes Melissa Silverstein, introducing the first draft of “a new and inclusive canon for the future.” Presenting their nominations in the Guardian are Amma Asante, Emily V. Gordon, Lynne Ramsay, Gurinder Chadha, Sally Potter, Hope Dickson Leach, Nadia Latif, Pamela Hutchinson, Pratibha Parmar, Jingan Young, Penelope Spheeris, Melanie Lynskey, and Sarah Solemani. And among the nominated works are films by Claire Denis, Jennifer Kent, Larisa Shepitko, Julie Dash, Jane Campion, Agnès Varda, Lois Weber, Andrea Arnold, and Ana Lily Amirpour.
From Catherine Grant comes word of a new special issue of the New Review of Film and Television Studies on British feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey. The articles you see with little green checks are freely accessible.
Also via Catherine Grant is a project to explore, The Eastmancolor Revolution and British Cinema, 1955–85. Among the articles recently posted are Sarah Street’s on Jack Cardiff, Carolyn Rickards’s on Richard Williams, and Keith M. Johnston’s on science fiction.
The latest entry in the current Reverse Shot symposium on time comes from Lauren Du Graf and focuses on “a two-minute passage in Alfred Guzzetti’s extraordinary personal documentary Family Portrait Sittings (1975).”
Also new at Reverse Shot is Eric Hynes, writing about Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous’s documentary, The Work: “In this film, the limitations of the shoot serve as assets, pushing everything into a pulsating present-tenseness.”
“Within a few years of defending truth over escapism, Powell and Pressburger had created some of the most bewitching, luxuriant fantasias ever put to celluloid,” writes Duncan Gray in the Notebook. “Which raises an idea—perhaps the idea—central to their work: are ‘fantasy’ and ‘escape’ the same thing?”
“2017 marks three decades since the death of Norman McLaren, an artist who never made a feature-length film but received an Academy Award, a BAFTA and a Palme d’Or during his fifty-year career,” writes Joel Blackledge. “The diverse and extensive body of work that he left behind remains a masterclass in experimental cinema: McLaren utilized just about every form of animation available to him, and even invented some new ones too. Unconventional but playful, rarely has the avant-garde been so joyful to discover.”
Also at Vague Visages, James Slaymaker revisits Arnaud Desplechin’s Esther Kahn, which “has gained a reputation as a valuable film maudit among a certain subset of cinephiles—it was even (infamously) named the best film of the 2000 by Cahiers du Cinéma.”
At RogerEbert.com, Peter Sobczynski celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Dario Argento’s Suspiria: “Unlike many other horror films of its era, it has not aged a day and its formal beauties still put most current movies to shame.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Kevin P. Sullivan scores the first interview with Paul Thomas Anderson to focus on his forthcoming film, Phantom Thread. “It’s not your standard love story. It’s more peculiar for sure. A lot of directors have tried and failed to make Rebecca. I’m probably next in line, but it’s a different story. I’m a large aficionado of those large Gothic romance movies as the old masters might do them. What I like about those kinds of love stories is that they’re very suspenseful. A good dollop of suspense with a love story is a nice combination.”
For the Paris Review, Gary Lippman talks with Barbet Schroeder about his “Trilogy of Evil,” General Idi Amin Dada (1974), Terror’s Advocate (2007), a portrait of Parisian lawyer Jacques Vergès who defended the likes of Nazi criminal Klaus Barbie, and The Venerable W., which focuses on Ashin Wirathu, a monk in Myanmar that Time magazine has called “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” Schroeder: “I learned that evil can’t be separated from humanity. Just today I was speaking about this with my friend Fernando Vallejo, the great Colombian writer whose novel Our Lady of the Assassins I made into a film. He said, Evil is the soul of man and civilization seeks to control it and does not succeed.”
For The Cut, Anna Silman talks with Sarah Polley about her adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1996 novel, Alias Grace, as a six-part mini-series directed by Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) for Netflix. “I started thinking about making it into a film when I was close to Grace’s age at the time of the murders, and now I’m almost the age Grace is at the end of the novel. My understanding of why I was so drawn to it has changed over twenty years of psychoanalysis, which has involved talking about this book a lot.” Writing for Cinema Scope when the series premiered in Toronto, Angelo Muredda found the “tonal strangeness and formal limitations . . . balanced at least in part by the handsome production values . . . and [Sarah] Gadon’s wily performance.”
Stephen Saito talks with Nick Ebeling about Along for the Ride, his documentary about Dennis Hopper, seen primarily through the eyes of Satya de la Manitou, Hopper’s “self-described ‘right-hand man,’” as Glenn Kenny notes in his review for the New York Times. Ebeling: “The greatest revelation for me during this process was that I had read articles that have said Dennis was unhappy with The Last Movie  or disowned it. So when I heard from so many people connected with Dennis that he felt it was his greatest achievement as an artist—and we kept that hearing again and again—that was very special to me because The Last Movie really is what inspired me.” The series Directed by Dennis Hopper opens today at the Metrograph in New York and runs through Wednesday.
Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov talks with Stephen Cone about Princess Cyd, Marilynne Robinson, Brokeback Mountain, teaching acting, shooting party scenes, and more. Sheila O’Malley on Princess Cyd at RogerEbert.com: “Cone captures the atmosphere of groups, and groups in particular contexts, the fluctuating alchemy of messy collectives. His gift with ensembles puts him in rare company with directors like Jonathan Demme and Jean Renoir, directors comfortable with sprawl, ‘mess,’ letting things develop as they come.”
In Other News
Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas) will preside over the International Jury of the 2018 Berlinale.
“Hito Steyerl, a German artist, writer and theorist known for taking a strong political stand and being unafraid to challenge the power of the art market, has been named the most influential person in contemporary art,” reports Mark Brown for the Guardian. “Steyerl is the first female artist to top the annual ArtReview Power 100 list, now in its sixteenth year.” Artsy has broken the list down “by race, gender, place of birth, and occupation . . . If you think this year’s list is still too white and too male, it’s a marked improvement from fifteen years ago.”
New York. The series Origin Stories: Greta Gerwig’s Footnotes to Lady Bird is on at the Quad through Thursday.
Toronto. Black Star opens today and runs through December 22. Writing for the TIFF Review, Ashley Clark notes that, when he first programmed the series for the BFI, “I wanted to consider how the widespread attitude in film culture that the director (or sometimes the screenwriter) is the true “author” of a film so often slights the essential contributions of the actor. For example, In the Heat of the Night may be ‘A Norman Jewison Film,’ but what would it be without Sidney Poitier’s searing, iconic lead performance?”
Meantime, Johnnie To: Expect the Unexpected is running at the TIFF Cinematheque through December 28.
In the Works
“After parting ways with longtime backer Harvey Weinstein, Quentin Tarantino is making studio executives go through a complicated process to bid for his new film about Charles Manson—including trekking to his agents’ offices just to read the script,” report Matt Donnelly and Umberto Gonzalez for TheWrap. “Tarantino’s desire for secrecy may stem, in part, from his fury at an early script for 2015’s The Hateful Eight leaking.”
Park Chan-wook “has signed up to direct a six-part adaptation of John le Carre’s spy novel The Little Drummer Girl,” reports the Playlist’s Kevin Jagernauth. “Florence Pugh, who recently earned plenty of acclaim for her titular performance in Lady Macbeth, will lead the miniseries, that follows an aspiring actress who is lured in the world of terrorists and espionage.”
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