Kiarostami, Hong, and More

The Daily — Jan 17, 2018

“My appreciation for his inspiring and innovative cinema grows deeper as the years go by,” writes Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa in an essay that Jonathan Rosenbaum’s posted on his site, “Reflections on Kiarostami’s Two-Way Mirrors.” A new and expanded edition of their book, simply entitled Abbas Kiarostami and featuring the still at the top here from The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) on its cover, will be out in March. Here, Saeed-Vafa considers several essential characteristics of Kiarostami’s cinema: “With each film, he experiments with different ways of constructing and deconstructing the cinematic language.”

The Tunnel at the End of the Light, the first book of nonfiction by novelist and renowned short story writer Jim Shepard, gathers ten of his essays on movies. Drew Johnson interviews him for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Part of what I argue in various ways in Tunnel is—and this is not a new idea—that Hollywood’s main agenda is really to pretend that we can have it both ways, and that means a movie can be devastatingly direct in its critiques as long as there’s that recuperative power operating in the opposite direction. So yeah, it’s humanity that got the world into the state Blade Runner is in, but the only thing that can save the world is: humanity. And the movie is just straight-faced about that.
What the best Hollywood movies do (and this is not true of some radical independent movies that can be quite different) is to present you with these impossible paradoxes and then to pretend blithely that they’re not paradoxes at all: This Western hero or private eye is too much the rugged individualist to fit into any community, but we can’t build or maintain a community without him.

Also for the LARB, Andrew Hageman surveys the many books on, in, and about Twin Peaks.

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about George Lucas’s work, especially his Star Wars films,” writes Mike Thorn, opening up a dialogue in the Notebook with Isiah Medina, Chelsea Phillips-Carr, Isaac Goes, and Neil Bahadur. “I hold this six-part series in extremely high regard, especially the prequel trilogy,” he writes, and points us to two of his essays for Bright Lights Film Journal, one on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), the other on Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). “I categorize Disney’s spin-off entries separately from Lucas’s work, given the corporation’s decision to disregard his existing outlines, but some of the contributors acknowledged the new films’ relation to (or distance from) the existing saga.”

Also in the Notebook is David Cairns’s review of Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson’s The Green Fog, a reworking of Vertigo (1958): “Fans of the primary source movie may bemoan Maddin and the Johnsons tendency to make fun of Hitchcock, cinema, and their own movie, but to me there's something both irresistible and exhilarating in this Frankensteinian patchwork.”

Here’s a new publication, subtitle magazine:

  • Ash Valentine on Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs (2013): “Just as [John] Cage argued that, even in the absence of musical notation, there is no real silence, [Lee Kang-Sheng] and Tsai’s collaborative storytelling turns a presumed absence of performance into a very real, visceral presence.”
  • Anzhe Zhang suggests that “through [Kim Min-hee’s] enigmatic performance and the story’s ambiguous sense of reality, On the Beach at Night Alone takes on a weariness that feels unfamiliarly despondent in its outlook as a [Hong Sangsoo] film.”
  • And for Alex Wen, Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Twilight (1957) “possesses a dark streak that festers and lingers in ways that Ozu’s other works, such as the Noriko trilogy–which includes the famously melancholic Tokyo Story, never did.”

Writing for Little White Lies, Giacomo Lee tracks the construction and destruction of Tokyo in the anime of the early 1990s.

“The practice of filming real-time 3D environments is known as machinima (machine cinema), and its history may be longer than you think.” Michael Ewins offers a brief primer at Dazed.

“Hollywood movies inform us more about how we think women are supposed to feel about sex, rather than how they actually experience sexual pleasure,” writes Natalia Leite (Bare) at the Talkhouse.

The Atlantic’s David Sims argues that John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club (1985) “laid the foundation for a whole new kind of teen drama—one motivated less by plot, and more by mood.”

Lists and Awards

Contributors to Reverse Shot offer their “Two Cents” on this, that, or just about anything they spotted onscreen in 2017: “Best Good Sex,” “Best Bad Sex,” “Best New Face” (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu in Félicité), “Worst Supporting Gay,” “Most Tonally Strange,” the list goes on. Quite a collection here.

The forty-ninth annual NAACP Image Awards were presented on Monday and Deadline’s Dino-Ray Ramos and Amanda N’Duka are highlighting these:

Entertainer of the Year: Ava DuVernay
Outstanding Motion Picture: Girls Trip
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture: Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Outstanding Drama Series: Power
NAACP President’s Award: Danny Glover
NAACP Chairman’s Awards: William Lucy
Outstanding Comedy Series: black-ish
Music Makes a Difference Honor: Charlie Wilson
Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series: Omari Hardwick, Power
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series: Tracee Ellis Ross, black-ish
Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series: Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Outstanding Actor Comedy Series: Anthony Anderson, black-ish
Outstanding Actress Motion Picture: Octavia Spencer, Gifted

“Ann Hui’s Our Time Will Come was named as the best local film of 2017 by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society,” reports Patrick Frater for Variety. “The film charts the resistance efforts of indigenous Leftist guerrillas during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong between 1941 and 1944.” Best director goes to Sylvia Chang for Love Education.God of War, a war epic directed by Gordon Chan, was named the winner in two categories. It won for best screenplay and for best actor (Japan’s Yasuaki Kurata). Stephy Tang won the best actress award for The Empty Hands, a martial arts drama.”

“Announcing the nominees for their sixteenth annual VES Awards, the Visual Effects Society brought welcome news for Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 and Matt Reeves’s War for the Planet of the Apes, each up for seven statuettes,” reports Jenna Marotta for IndieWire. “Despicable Me 3 is the most-nominated animated film of the year (five), while the most-honored title overall is Game of Thrones (eleven).”

Goings On

New York. The Film Society of Lincoln Center has rolled out the lineup for the eighteenth edition of Film Comment Selects, opening on February 23 with the New York premiere of Antonio Mendez Esparza’s Life and Nothing More and running through February 27. There’ll be twenty-fifth anniversary screening Tom Joslin and Peter Friedman’s Silverlake Life: The View from Here and “a special retrospective of radical filmmaker Nico Papatakis, who had a ‘body of work that blends anarchic fury with visceral and transcendent poetry’ (Yonca Talu, Film Comment),” and you can read descriptions of all the films here. Meantime, here’s a quick overview of the rest of the slate:

  • Rok Biček’s The Family
  • Wang Bing’s Mrs. Fang
  • Ildikó Enyedi’s On Body and Soul
  • Bertrand Mandico’s Wild Boys
  • Govinda Van Maele’s Gutland
  • Katharina Wyss’s Sarah Plays a Werewolf

Park City. The Sundance Film Festival, whose 2018 edition opens tomorrow, has announced its juries.

  • U.S. Documentary: Barbara Chai, Simon Chinn, Chaz Ebert, Ezra Edelman, and Matt Holzman
  • U.S. Dramatic: Rachel Morrison, Jada Pinkett Smith, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Joe Swanberg
  • World Cinema Dramatic: Hanaa Issa, Ruben Östlund, and Michael J. Werner
  • World Cinema Documentary: Joslyn Barnes, Billy Luther, and Paulina Suárez
  • Short Film: Cherien Dabis, Shirley Manson, and Chris Ware
  • NEXT: RuPaul Charles
  • Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film: Robert Benezra, Heather Berlin, Kerry Bishé, and Nancy Buirski

Meantime, here’s the question posed by the latest IndieWire Critics Survey: “[W]hat is the best movie to ever have its world premiere at the fest?”

Brussels. The retrospective of work by Hong Sangsoo opening tomorrow at Cinematek and running through February 25 coincides with the publication of Hong Sang-soo. Infinite Worlds Possible, a collection of essays put together by Sabzian, Courtisane, and Cinematek (and not to be confused with the French-language collection Les variations Hong Sangsoo). Sabzian has posted a translation of “Looking for Reality ‘Between the Cracks’,” a 2003 essay by Jean-Michel Frodon: “Hong Sangsoo’s cinema seems to consist only of details, of contingent moments that suddenly get out of hand or explode.”

“Between Chance and Design: The Puzzling Hong Sangsoo” is the subtitle of “The Love Connection: Another Jam Session on Narrative – Part Two,” an ongoing series by Tom Paulus at photogénie: “If Hong is not a moralist in the classical didactic sense of wanting to instruct, or in the Christian-Catholic sense of his favorite authors, Gide, Dostoevsky, Bresson, Dreyer, Rohmer, Ford, then he is certainly a master of moral comedy, like Rohmer (who has also said that he has no moralizing intentions) and his French masters in the genre, from Pascal and Rochefoucauld to Corneille, Balzac and Renoir.”

In the Works

For the New York Times, Charles McGrath checks in on Philip Roth, who’ll turn eighty-five in March. “He sees friends, goes to concerts, checks his email, watches old movies on FilmStruck. Not long ago he had a visit from David Simon, the creator of The Wire, who is making a six-part mini-series of The Plot Against America, and afterward he said he was sure his novel was in good hands.” Roth: “However prescient The Plot Against America might seem to you, there is surely one enormous difference between the political circumstances I invent there for the U.S. in 1940 and the political calamity that dismays us so today. It’s the difference in stature between a President Lindbergh and a President Trump.”

“After publishing a memoir that bared her rise as a ‘70s screen siren and a private life that included love affairs with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Richard Pryor and Freddie Prinze, Pam Grier is focused on Pam, the working title of a biopic that will bring her life story to the screen,” reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “A script by Bennie Richburg is about to be shopped, one that Jay Pharoah read and attached himself to play Pryor, whom Grier saw at his best and worst.”

Edge of Tomorrow 2? “We’re just working on the script,” Doug Liman tells Collider’s Adam Chitwood. “If the movie happens, it will be because Emily Blunt, Tom Cruise and myself are passionate about making it, which is a great place to be. She doesn’t need this movie, he doesn’t need this movie, and I don’t need it. We’re gonna make it if we really believe in it. We have story that the three of us love, so we’re working hard on the script.”

“The Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) has announced this year’s line-up of twenty-five projects,” and Liz Shackleton’s got it at Screen. “Liu Jian, whose Have a Nice Day premiered in competition at the Berlinale last year, is attending HAF with his third animated feature, Art College, revolving around two art students in the 1990s. Critically-acclaimed Korean director E J-yong (Bacchus Lady) is bringing The Big Picture, about a lawyer who kills a man and steals his identity, while Taiwan’s Arvin Chen (Au Revoir Taipei) will present Naïve Melody about an introverted young man who falls into a relationship with a brothel’s mama-san.”


Dolores O'Riordan, lead singer of the Cranberries, died Monday in London at the age of forty-six. In the Guardian, Laura Snapes looks back on five of her best performances, a list that naturally includes “Zombie” and “Linger”—and “Dreams,” which helped make The Cranberries “one of the biggest Irish bands to penetrate America, and they cemented their pull on the pop culture by popping up on a wildly varied array of film and TV soundtracks: Dolores O’Riordan’s weightless, hopeful yearning floated through everything from grungy teen drama My So-Called Life to Wong Kar-wai’s Chungking Express and the first Mission: Impossible.

“Hugh Wilson, an Emmy-winning writer-producer and WKRP in Cincinnati series creator who also directed several features including The First Wives Club and the original Police Academy, has died,” reports Erik Pedersen for Deadline. Wilson was seventy-four.


On the new Film Comment Podcast (68’01”), Margaret Barton-Fumo, Violet Lucca, Nick Pinkerton, and Tom Scharpling discuss good soundtracks for bad movies, “genre sampler OSTs, unlikely pop music cues, and whether or not Steven Spielberg’s idea of humor is just . . . shouting.”


Recently, Herb Shellenberger “requested from his friends any links they had to free online streaming platforms for films and moving image work. He was especially interested in ones that are run by archives, and most interested in those outside the US/UK.” Catherine Grant has now gathered those links to dozens of sites and has notes on each.

“At That Very Moment” is the title of the fifteenth audiovisual essay in Cristina Álvarez Lopez and Adrian Martin’s series for De Filmkrant, “The Thinking Machine” (3’29”). “Within a year of each other, F. W. Murnau’s classic Nosferatu (1922) conjured a dark web of (female) desire and fear (of the male) that also appealed, albeit in a different key, to Germaine Dulac for her surrealistic ‘comedy of bourgeois manners,’ The Smiling Madame Beudet (1923).”

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