In “Twin Peaks: The Return, or What Isn’t Cinema?,” a four-part essay at Reverse Shot, Nick Pinkerton first stakes out a position. Referring to one of Marcel Duchamp’s most famous pieces, he writes: “For a hundred years now it’s been possible to put a toilet in a white box and call it art, but God forbid you put a TV miniseries in MoMA and call it cinema.” He then turns to the David Lynch and Mark Frost’s series: “While Twin Peaks was underway there was a feeling—I had it, at least, and I discussed it with others at the time who felt the same way—that all was going to be revealed, that the entire occult history of the United States in the seventy-some years since VJ Day would be delineated, that the spell would be broken and we would understand as the transmission was cut on the incantatory broadcast that we’ve unknowingly been in thrall to for the whole of our lives: ‘This is the water, this is the well . . .’ Nothing of the sort happened, of course, but Twin Peaks’ very ability to generate that anticipation is a testament to its achievement.” The series is also “a heads-up to look for cinema in places other than where it’s alleged to be found.”
“Lynch has often been credited with irrevocably transforming television,” writes Brad Stevens in Sight & Sound, but “it could just as easily be argued that television transformed Lynch, previously a key postmodern figure. Whereas modernism viewed narrative as a problem, postmodernism viewed it as a joke, a hoax that had been exposed and deserved only our derision. Blue Velvet (1986) and Wild at Heart (1990) belong securely within this tradition, as does the feature-length Twin Peaks pilot. As the latter series developed, however, Lynch clearly found himself caring, in an unironic way, about characters who had initially existed in inverted commas, introducing a depth of feeling that would be retained in his later, more mature output.”
The Notebook has posted Arindam Sen’s translation—the first into English—of “The Eye: Movement in Film,” an essay by Ritwik Ghatak, director of The Cloud-Capped Star (1969).
Also in the Notebook:
- The MUBI Jerrython rolls on with Tag Gallagher’s 1971 review of Lewis’s Which Way to the Front? (1970) and, from Otie Wheeler, a transcript of a 1971 talk with the Documentary Film Group of the University of Chicago in which Lewis argued that “most people fear comedy.”
- To introduce himself to films he might not have otherwise seen, Michael Sicinski’s programmed his own private 2018 Random Film Festival.
- Also, Heinz Emigholz “wants us to realize that we are experiencing stillness across a fragment of time. And this is one key factor of his analysis of architecture.”
- In Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames, “any tension is given back to the viewer, in their monitoring of their own ability to be deceived,” writes Isiah Medina. “But those who are not taken in by the snow, the rain, the sounds, are the most mistaken.”
- Ben R. Nicholson on Krzysztof Zanussi, “a fascinating director whose vast cinematic output followed a degree in philosophy and a PhD in physics.”
- Vadim Rizov: “Lukas Valenta Rinner’s A Decent Woman premiered two years ago but feels absolutely of the moment: a story about cloistered communities which impose conservative impulses on everything around them.”
- Greg Cwik on Jean-Pierre Melville, “one the most precise and clinical filmmakers active during the French New Wave.”
- “Even the most straight-faced Federico Fellini film veers toward the illusory.” Jeremy Carr on The White Sheik (1952) and Nights of Cabiria (1957).
- David Cairns on Edmond T. Gréville’s Menaces... (1940) with Erich von Stroheim “as a disfigured Austrian war veteran, his stilted French actually enhancing his characterization.”
- Leonardo Goi on A Fantastic Woman and Sebastián Lelio’s “pitch-perfect lead character pick,” Daniela Vega.
A little something from Eric Rohmer at This Recording: “There are people, like Resnais, who like to talk with someone. For me, my interlocutors are my guinea pigs. It has even happened that my actors have served as my guinea pigs, not for the film in which they played, but for the next film. No, I don't need collaboration. Not at all.”
Buster Keaton’s “gags and stunts, some of the most dangerous and elegant ever filmed, underpin a morbid and existentially ironic comic art,” writes Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the A.V. Club. “He’s an unlikely modernist clown—in some respects more vaudeville than his contemporary Charlie Chaplin, whose comedies were generally sincere, while Keaton’s were parodies, their occasional love-story plots undercut by sardonic punchlines.”
“I am not unsympathetic towards most Marxist thinking,” writes Michaël Van Remoortere for photogénie, “but its main flaw, and this flaw is overlooked time and time again when talking about any narrative, consists of its propensity for reducing the meaning (in the biggest possible sense) of human existence to only those parameters that have meaning within the theory itself. This is the case with Marxism (as I have tried to prove by using [Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s] Acht Stunden sind kein Tag  as an example) as well as with the so-called modern, scientific psychology that makes up the general narrative of television as a whole.”
“In imagining the ‘proper’ role of African Americans still torn between cultural resistance and acquiescence, Hollywood has unsurprisingly put forth allegories more prudent than liberatory,” writes Andrew Grossman in Bright Lights Film Journal. “It is probably no coincidence that Hollywood’s most conspicuous black-centered films of the Obama years—The Help (2011), The Butler (2013), and 12 Years a Slave (2013)—confronted historical narratives of institutional servility without condoning or proposing any revolutionary solutions.”
“The critical and box-office success of Get Out and the very existence of big-studio productions like Black Panther are good reasons to revisit the remarkable, complex story of black filmmaking in America,” write Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott. “For Black History Month, we have selected twenty-eight essential films from the twentieth century pertaining to African-American experiences.”
Also in the New York Times, J. Hoberman reviews last month’s release of the new 4K restoration of John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), “a prime example of American mythmaking.”
And back to A. O. Scott for a moment. Like many these days, he’s rethinking his relationship to Woody Allen and his work. “I could, I suppose, declare that I won’t watch any more of his movies. But I can hardly unwatch the ones I’ve seen, which is all of them, at least half more than once. And even if I could, by some feat of cinephilic sophistry, separate those movies from Mr. Allen’s life, I can’t possibly separate them from mine. . . . Reassessment is part of the ordinary work of culture, and in an extraordinary time, the work is especially vital and especially challenging. I will not blame you if you want to stop watching Woody Allen’s movies. But I also think that some of us have to start all over again.”
Opinions on Allen are ranging far and wide on either side of Scott’s position. Writing for Jewish Currents, David Klion argues that Allen “deserves whatever is coming,” whereas, in the Guardian, Hadley Freeman warns that “this is not a case that should be tried by public opinion.”
From Sarah Nicole Prickett’s essay in the new issue of Artforum on the myth of the Wonder Woman:
A strange feminist claim on Scarlett O’Hara, small business owner and rape victim, took root a decade ago, when morals were not much imputed to the complexity or strength of female leads. Critic Molly Haskell opens Frankly, My Dear: “Gone with the Wind” Revisited, her beautiful 2009 book-length apologia for Scarlett, by recollecting her appearance on an early women-and-film panel, ca. 1972, alongside Gloria Steinem. Steinem cited the “spectacle of Scarlett being squeezed into her corset to a seventeen-inch waist” as a “perfect illustration of female bondage.” Haskell retorted that Scarlett was a “fierce, courageous heroine, going her own way, a survivor.” Deciding, over three decades later, that they were both right, she adds magnanimously that the “difference of perspective was an early augur of the fault lines in feminism, or perhaps a necessary split focus.” Steinem saw women as victims of history who couldn’t look back, so that only the future was female. Haskell wanted to celebrate “women in the past (real or fictional) who’d held their own in a chauvinist culture, who’d subverted the norm and gained victories not always apparent through a literal reading of the plot.” It would take a very unliteral reading of the plot to ignore the “norm” our heroine had no intention to “subvert,” and neither feminist, that day on the panel, seemed to remember who’d laced the corsets.
“Everyone is eager to say that they support women, that they're listening to women, that it's more urgent than ever to give work and equal pay to women in addition to assuring their safety,” writes Alison Willmore at Buzzfeed. “But when it comes to taking chances on women-directed work and seeing it as commercially viable, Sundance 2018 mostly felt like a long lesson in just how far we still have to go.”
In “Let's Stop Calling Movies Feminist,” Anna Biller, director of The Love Witch (2016), argues that misuse of the term “is an effective way to kill a political movement, and it’s working.”
The latest additions at Adrian Martin’s place: Reviews of Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), “a rich, unmissable movie,” and Munich (2005), “a horrifyingly awful film.” And book reviews: Richard Brody’s Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard (2008) and Colin MacCabe’s Godard: A Portrait of the Artist at 70 (2003).
At Ferdy on Films, Roderick Heath writes about two films by Roberto Rossellini: “It would be tempting to regard Germany, Year Zero  as merely an extra-long last installment of Paisan , continuing the northward and chronological march to its logical end amidst the shattered husk of the Nazi homeland. But Germany, Year Zero is a different kind of movie to Paisan in terms of Rossellini’s focus and method; the individual portraiture that informed a general sociological viewpoint in the earlier film is here inverted.”
Heath also takes on two by Jean Renoir: “It feels right to look at Night at the Crossroads  and A Day in the Country  in concert because they’re both relatively short fruits of Renoir’s great period, and that diastolic sensibility is plain from their titles on down.”
“Among the most impressive film restorations of 2017 was Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille Trilogy (1931-36),” writes Christopher Weedman in Film International. “Once viewed as an ‘uncinematic’ filmmaker only interested in obtaining a larger audience for his stage plays, Pagnol was instead an important innovator, whose films paved the way for Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave due to his commitment to shooting in natural locations during the early sound era of the 1930s. More importantly, Pagnol’s affection for the colorful working-class people of the port city of Marseille demonstrates his deserved place alongside Jean Renoir as one of France’s great humanist filmmakers.”
“The beauty of [G. W.] Pabst’s cinema is that it combines all the skill and expressionistic virtuosity of fellow German master, F. W. Murnau, with an aching sense of compassion,” writes Patrick Nabarro at Little White Lies. “Westfront 1918 (1930) and Kameradschaft  were also Pabst’s first sound films, and, particularly in the former, the director provides an incredible sensory impression of the horrors of trench warfare.”
David Cairns on two Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich collaborations: “After Morocco’s  one-and-a-half-note performance of sultry exhaustion and sardonic ennui, Dishonored  actually gives its star acting to do, with a transition from world-weary sex worker to daring undercovers agent, by way of a hilarious disguise as a cleaning woman, with much padding and goofy, bovine mannerisms. . . . X-27 is a quicksilver nitrate masquerade artist, a protean Venus.”
Also at the Chiseler:
- Dan Callahan on Gilbert Roland, “romantic in profile, but somewhat shifty when he was seen full face with his eyes narrowed. When he opened his eyes wide, however, their greenness had a heart-stopping effect, even in black and white films.”
- Imogen Sara Smith on Carol Reed: “Doom, in his films, springs most often from encounters between blundering innocents who understand too little, and cynics who know too much.”
- And on William Conrad’s Brainstorm (1965), “a chronological outlier to the classic noir cycle, but it firmly belongs there.”
- Daniel Riccuito, Jennifer Matsui, David Cairns, and Tom Sutpen on eyes on the screen.
“There is no piece of luggage quite like Blanche DuBois’s trunk in A Streetcar Named Desire,” writes Susan Harlan for the Paris Review. “Eight scenes before he will attack Blanche’s body, in the infamous rape scene, [Stanley Kowalski] attacks her trunk, throwing its contents all over the room.”
At Vague Visages:
- Jeremy Carr revisits Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear (1953), “a model of elemental, technical tension, containing a sustained sequence lasting roughly ninety minutes (part of its 147-minute total runtime) in which the basics of cinematic grammar are implemented and manipulated to astonishing ends.”
- In Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966), Marie I and Marie II “become hyper-symbols of self-sovereignty, unrestrained and unabashed,” writes Natalia Winkelman.
- For Marshall Shaffer, Agnès Varda’s Mur murs (1980) “feels like a spiritual prequel to Varda’s Oscar-nominated collaboration with JR, 2017’s Visages villages (Faces Places), in the way it probes how outdoor art can change residents’ relationship to the locales they occupy.”
“Released in Elizabeth II's silver jubilee year of 1978 as a provocation seemingly towards just about everyone, it's little wonder Derek Jarman's second feature film, Jubilee, caused such an uproar,” writes Adam Scovell at the Quietus. “The Queen herself is mugged and killed for her crown early on in a Deptford edgeland, the punk movement still then raging over London is unconsciously sent up by some of the very people who were part of it, and the raw mixture of violence, conservative nostalgia, swipes at Catholicism and copious nudity makes it as anarchic as anything the director made afterwards.” Jubilee is also “a time-capsule of a period in London's history when subcultures grew overtly and naturally due to the city's many affordable, derelict areas.”
With last year’s somniloquies and Caniba, Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor’s “interest shifts from the external to a more internal world through the documentation of dreamscapes, memories, and desires,” writes Zoe Meng Jiang.
Also in the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail: Sarah Mankoff on Valeska Grisebach’s Western and Celluloid Liberation Front: “Jia Zhangke seems to be laying the groundwork for a new Chinese independent film culture and industry. Though, in the case of Chinese cinema, the exact meaning of ‘independence’ is rather ambiguous. Launching the Pingyao Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon International Film Festival (PYIFF) certainly constitutes the highest profile move in this direction . . . Very much like Jia’s filmmaking, PYIFF’s aesthetic and political independence pushed the envelope without tearing it.”
The latest from subtitle: Anzhe Zhang on Lav Diaz’s forty-minute Butterflies Have No Memories (2009), Justin Hong on Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour (2015), and Alex Wen on Deepak Rauniyar’s White Sun (2016).
“We are left with the paradox of two Werner Herzogs,” write John Redding and B. A. Hunt for Musings. “Cinephiles simultaneously believe in Herzog the Philosopher who probes at hidden truths and is pathologically immune to the artifice of Hollywood, and in Herzog the Celebrity who is comfortable hamming it up in cartoons and talk shows.”
Writing for Cabinet, Christopher Turner delves into the history behind and the reception of Jack Cardiff’s Scent of Mystery (1960), shot in “Glorious Smell-O-Vision.” At the premiere, “the atmosphere was full of anticipation as [the audience] prepared to sample the new, revolutionary experience alongside stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra.”
With Wormwood, “the feeling [Errol] Morris leaves us with is not the familiar satisfaction of the spy movie in which we’re finally let in on the secret,” writes Tamsin Shaw for the New York Review of Books, “but rather a queasiness at the way in which the whole business of state secrecy is exploited in American culture.”
Also at the NYRB, Christopher Carroll recommends Suburra: Blood on Rome, “an excellent new crime series from Netflix and RAI.”
At the Talkhouse, filmmakers carry on arguing their cases for underrated and overlooked work: Bruce LaBruce (The Raspberry Reich) on Arthur Hiller and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s The Hospital (1971), Onur Tukel (Summer of Blood) on Albert Birney and Kentucker Audley’s Sylvio (2017), and Theo Anthony (Rat Film) on Marcus Lemonis’s reality show, The Profit.
“No other TV series captures daily life in the city like High Maintenance, which profiles so many of its residents, and from so many different communities, without judgment,” writes Judy Berman in the Nation.
“Making a film is the choreography of dozens of dancers doing their own thing, but all moving in the same direction: precise choreography that has to make way for improvisation at a moment’s notice.” Producer Brian Hieggelke elaborates in Newcity on the many lessons learned while making Jennifer Reeder’s Signature Move (2017).
“Institutionalizing Moving Image Archival Training: Analyses, Histories, Theories” is the theme of the new issue of Synoptique.
Neden Udovicic looks into the history of Albanian movie posters.
“Maria (‘Masha’) Belodubrovskaya’s Not According to Plan: Filmmaking under Stalin draws upon vast archival material to argue that filmmaking, far from being an iron machine reliably pumping out propaganda, was decentralized, poorly organized, weakly managed, driven by confusing commands and clashing agendas,” writes David Bordwell. “Censorship was largely left up to the industry, not Party bureaucrats, and directors and screenwriters enjoyed remarkable flexibility. . . . To a surprising extent, Soviet cinema encouraged the director as auteur. How’s that for revisionism?”
This leads to Bordwell’s own thoughts on Stalin-era cinema: “Some films recalled, even anticipated, innovations taking hold in Europe and America, but other creative choices were surprisingly offbeat, and not what we associate with standard propaganda. . . . Not only did it apparently constitute a significant development in technique, but in forming a tradition, it provided a counterpart and sometimes a counterpoint to developments in the West. Later that tradition became something for directors to react against (Tarkovsky and Sokurov come to mind) or to adapt to new purposes (I’d put Jancsó in that category). For all the behind-the-scenes bungling, it became much more than a propaganda vehicle.”
“I took a literary journey through the works of Chantal Akerman thanks to two new books,” writes Nadin Mai. “Not so long ago, I wrote about Chantal Akerman, Passer la nuit by Corinne Rondeau, which I found to be a great book, something that gave you a sense of how a Chantal Akerman film feels.” In Chantal Akerman – Dieu se reposa, mais pas nous, Jérôme Momcilovic “describes hers as ‘cinéma errant, nomade, vagabond’ (nomad, wandering cinema) which is very much in line with Akerman’s being.” The collection Chantal Akerman, edited by Fabienne Liptay and Margit Tröhler, “is more for people who prefer a rigorous reading of single scenes.”
For the Observer, Sean O'Hagan reviews Wim Wenders’s The Pixels of Paul Cezanne and Reflections on Other Artists: “This being a series of essays on, as the blurb has it, ‘the fellow artists who have influenced, shaped and inspired him,’ it may be churlish to expect the praise to be tempered by a degree of critical reservation, but the single, sustained note of reverence throughout does begin to rankle after a while. (The essays were written previously as book introductions or laudatory speeches.) That said, there is enough insight here for both the curious and the faithful, even if the biggest insight of all is Wenders’s affinity with, and generosity towards, his fellow artists.”
For the Los Angeles Review of Books, Peter L. Winkler, author of Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel, calls Nick Ebeling’s documentary on Hopper, Along for the Ride (2017), “an entertaining introduction to its subject.”
More books? See Saturday’s roundup.
There’s a new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with Gina Lollobrigida’s name on it. Variety’s Nick Vivarelli asks her about Howard Hughes, who “absolutely wanted to marry me, without hardly knowing me,” and Humphrey Bogart, who’d tease her by “talking tough to me, even when he was saying some really sweet things.”
“It’s a feminist act to show that women can be as bad as men,” François Ozon tells Nick Dawson at the Talkhouse.
“I think about Fellini’s Amarcord a lot,” Greta Gerwig tells Little White Lies’ David Jenkins, “and the way you get this sense when you watch it of, ‘No, that’s not what happened, but that is what that moment felt like’. The way he saw everything is heightened, but it also feels somehow correct. I think I’m interested in personal cinema. Not autobiographical cinema but personal cinema.”
“I don’t like race debates,” Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya tells Emma Brockes in the Guardian. “What’s to debate? Do you think racism’s good? What are we debating? Let’s just go and do our shit. It doesn’t mean I shy away from it, but I’m not ‘interested in race.’ It’s just something I have to have a deep understanding and knowledge of, because of my experience, and because I have to navigate the western world. It’s something I have to know about first to survive, and then to thrive.”
For the Hollywood Reporter, Vladimir Kozlov gets Emir Kusturica going “about the state of art house cinema, Hollywood sexual harassment scandals, and (of course) Putin and Trump.”
Stacey Wilson Hunt talks with Holly Hunter about The Big Sick and Alan Ball’s new HBO drama Here and Now for Vulture.
For more—quite a few more—interviews, see Friday’s roundup.
Looking beyond 2017, Blake Williams (PROTOTYPE) lists his ten favorite films of the past ten years for Grasshopper Film.
IndieWire’s put together an annotated list of the “25 Best Movie Scores of the 21st Century.”
For the BFI, Matthew Thrift writes about eight “key works” of Ida Lupino as a director, David Parkinson writes about ten “essential films” by Ernst Lubitsch, and Oliver Lunn offers a beginner’s guide to Kenneth Anger.
Writing for the New York Times, Adam Cook lists “five reasons to take a closer look at Michael Stuhlbarg.”
Patrick Friel has begun a biweekly column spotlighting new additions to FilmStruck with clips from reviews from the Chicago Reader’s archive. Check out films featuring Anna Magnani or tackling hard times.
The Writers Guild of America presented its awards last night. Jordan Peele’s won the prize for original screenplay for Get Out, James Ivory, adapted screenplay for Call Me by Your Name, and Brett Morgen, documentary screenplay for Jane. Here’s the full list of winners.
At the recent twenty-third Lumières Awards, Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) “won best film, director, actor (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), male newcomer (Arnaud Valois), script (Campillo and Philippe Mangeot) and score (Arnaud Rebotini),” reports Variety’s Elsa Keslassy.
The International Cinephile Society has announced the winners of its ICS Awards. Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name scores best picture and three more awards, while Paul Thomas Anderson wins best director, with Phantom Thread also winning four more.
In Other News
“After decades of legal battles, the negative of Orson Welles’s Don Quixote is now in the hands of the late filmmaker's longtime companion Oja Kodar,” but as Ray Kelly explains at Wellesnet, this doesn’t mean we have the slightest idea what’s in store for the project Welles began shooting in 1955.
On January 24, Stephen Whitty wrote his last column for the Star-Ledger, leaving New Jersey, “the birthplace of the American motion picture,” without “a single, full-time film writer. It’s a shame, because it’s a state with a rich cinema history, a vibrant present and a still exciting future. I’ve loved covering all of it.”
In the Works
Michael Hirst, who wrote Elizabeth (1998) starring Cate Blanchett and the television series The Tudors and Vikings, is teaming up with Martin Scorsese “to make a series about a joint obsession: the Romans.” Dalya Alberge for the Observer: “The Caesars will tell the story of the early rulers of ancient Rome, beginning with the rise to power of Julius Caesar. The pilot has been written, plus the outline for the rest of the season. . . . Scorsese is “totally passionate about the Romans” and has been ‘desperate’ for many years to make a film or TV drama about them, Hirst said.”
Screen’s Jeremy Kay reports that Michael Almereyda will direct Ethan Hawke in Tesla, charting “inventor and electrical engineering pioneer Nikola Tesla’s life and career, spanning his invention of the AC motor, famed rivalry with Thomas Edison, and his relationship with J. P. Morgan’s daughter, Anne.”
Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. reports that Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) will direct Alicia Vikander in The Marsh King’s Daughter, an adaption of Karen Dionne’s bestseller.
Screen’s Tom Grater reports that Alice Lowe (Prevenge) and David Thewlis have joined Sally Hawkins in Eternal Beauty, the second feature after Just Jim (2015) to be directed by Craig Roberts, known to most as an actor (Submarine).
“Michael Dinner (Justified) has been tapped to direct and executive produce CBS drama pilot L.A. Confidential, based on James Ellroy’s noir classic novel,” reports Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva. Arnon Milchan, a producer behind Curtis Hanson’s 1997 feature adaptation, is a producer on the forthcoming series as well.
Screenwriter Christopher Hampton (Dangerous Liaisons, A Dangerous Method, Atonement) will adapt J.G. Farrell’s 1978 World War II novel The Singapore Grip for ITV, reports Deadline’s Peter White.
At Once Upon a Screen, Aurora has posted a slew of recordings of Ida Lupino’s radio performances. “What you’ll hear is the voice of a compelling actor playing opposite some of the greatest legends of filmdom. And you’ll hear the voice of a pioneer, a woman who broke barriers and in the process became a legend herself. Plus, she was good, darling.”
“I Loved It When I Was a Kid” is the theme of the latest Film Comment Podcast (56’31”) with K. Austin Collins, Nicholas Elliott, Mark Harris, and Violet Lucca.
N or NW (1937) (7’42”) “is one of the four films [Len] Lye did for the British General Post Office (GPO), whose film unit was headed by the famous John Grierson,” writes Cristina Álvarez López in the Notebook. “Lye was someone who could easily turn commissions with an evident promotional goal into artistic adventures that inspired him.”
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