Film Comment Selects 2018

“Eighteen years young and still eagerly nudging audiences toward discovery, Film Comment Selects is a film series as pointed act of correction,” writes Ed Gonzalez at the top of his overview in the Village Voice of the series opening today at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York and running through Tuesday. “Curated by Film Comment magazine’s editors, this cinematic showcase is devoted to the underseen, the avoided, and the cast-off. Even this year’s sidebar is an attempt at a resurrection: Five films by Nico Papatakis that are at risk of falling to the scythe of time, among them 1963’s Les Abysses.

As an introduction to that sidebar, the FSLC has clipped a paragraph from Yonca Talu’s piece for the September/October 2017 issue of Film Comment: “It’s become a cliché to call a filmmaker ‘rebellious,’ but from Gance to Eisenstein to Pasolini to Buñuel, the 20th century saw true rebels who fiercely defied both the cinematic and political establishments of their time. Nikos Papatakis (1918- 2010)—nicknamed Nico in France—holds a profound and unique place in this lineage through a body of work that blends anarchic fury with visceral and transcendent poetry.” The other day, FC posted more from that article, a passage focusing on Papatakis’s work with actress Olga Karlatos on Gloria Mundi (1976). And the image at the top of this entry is from The Shepherds of Disorder (1967)—Jonathan Rosenbaum will introduce the screening tomorrow afternoon.

Antonio Mendez Esparza’s Life and Nothing More screens this evening, and James Kang has gathered reviews at Critics Round Up. The film has inspired a Film Comment Free Talk: Race and Representation,” to be moderated tomorrow afternoon by FC editor Nicolas Rapold. Taking part will be Méndez Esparza, RaMell Ross, director of Hale County This Morning, This Evening, and Racquel Gates, author of Double Negative: The Black Image and Popular Culture.

Govinda Van Maele’s Gutland, starring Vicky Krieps before she’d face off against Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread and Frederick Lau, who was so captivating in Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria (2015), screens tomorrow evening. “Upon first impression,” writes Alysia Urrutia for Cinema Scope, “Gutland seems like a rustic but warm film about life in the European countryside; its assured cinematography equally sensitive to the particularities of 35 mm when shooting the vast and shimmering wheat fields as it is in its dim but sultry domestic spaces. Yet little by little, the film’s air of social realism is distorted with touches of surrealism, as the sinister histories of both the town and its newcomer start to reveal themselves.”

“Notoriously provocative, French experimental artist Bertrand Mandico has finally delivered his debut feature film,” Wild Boys, wrote Vassilis Economou for Cineuropa when the film premiered at last fall’s Venice International Critics Week. This is “is a highly referential work, but the most obvious inspiration is probably Walerian Borowczyk’s first live-action film, Goto, Island of Love (1969), featuring another forbidden island of temptations and extremities.” Economou’s also interviewed Mandico. Dustin Chang at ScreenAnarchy: “It plays out like a prettier, sexier Guy Maddin film.”

“On June 15, 1993,” writes Melissa Anderson for 4Columns, “PBS broadcast Silverlake Life: The View from Here, a raw, unflinching video diary of two gay men, Tom Joslin and Mark Massi, lovers for more than two decades, who are both dying of AIDS. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival that January, the documentary, directed by Joslin and Peter Friedman—who completed the project after Joslin’s death—aired during a year that brought more grim news about the pandemic: patients with the disease started to show resistance to AZT, then the principal drug used to treat HIV/AIDS.” Silverlake Life is “a key artifact from the wretched epoch when a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS instantly equated pariah status, and whether you’re seeing the film for the first time or anew, the experience is gutting.”

Katharina Wyss’s Sarah Plays a Werewolf is another Venice Critics Week entry. “The film is about seventeen-year-old Sarah who lives in a small town in Switzerland, is involved in theater, and gets very mixed up with her emotions, fiction, and reality,” Wyss tells Women and Hollywood.

Marta Bałaga, who’s interviewed Wyss for Cineuropa: “Shot as if to deepen the overwhelming sense of claustrophobia, Sarah Plays a Werewolf might have ideas crammed together almost as tight as Sarah’s neurotic family, but somewhere along the way, it also manages to grasp what it feels like for a girl.”

We opened an entry on Wang Bing’s Mrs. Fang when it premiered at Locarno last summer, and the updates kept rolling in for weeks afterwards.

Nicolas Rapold introduces his interview with Ildiko Enyedi, whose On Body and Soul screens on Monday: “Shot in a mix of bold and cool primary colors and given the air and pace of an autumnal forest clearing, it is an off-kilter story of attraction between a reserved slaughterhouse inspector, Maria (Alexandra Borbély), and loner manager, Endre (Morcsányi Géza). They meet, quite literally, in their dreams. With its sentimental streak lent an ever so slight mesmeric tinge by the precise design and Maria’s reserve, the film has met approval of every stripe: a Golden Bear last year at Berlin, followed by an Academy Award nomination this year, not to mention acquisition by Netflix.” More at Critics Round Up.

Rok Biček’s The Family screens Tuesday. From Locarno: “At fourteen, Matej’s family confronts him with the world of mental disorders and he spends the time isolated from his peers. At twenty, as he becomes a father himself, it looks as if he would be able to transcend his past and create a family of his own, but his behavior and personality—deeply affected by his history—disturb his new-found peace. Two months after the birth of his daughter, Matej’s girlfriend breaks up with him, leaving him no choice but to fight for custody. The battle becomes so bitter that Matej decides to act radically.”

On the latest episode of the FSLC’s Close-Up podcast (40’43”), Michael Koresky and Nicolas Rapold discuss this year’s selections.

Updates:Daisies meets Spider Baby in Nikos Papatakis’s idiosyncratic, trenchant class satire Les Abysses,” writes Jon Dieringer, who tells the story behind the film and its maker at Screen Slate.

Jonathan Romney for Film Comment: “A film of pure artifice, Wild Boys puts you in mind of the work of Guy Maddin (it could all be taking place on a neighboring island to the setting of his notorious short Sissy Boy Slap Party), of Raúl Ruiz, and of fellow French directors F.J. Ossang and Yann Gonzalez, director of the torridly pan-erotic You and the Night (he gets a thank-you credit from Mandico). Oh, and let’s add Fassbinder’s Querelle and inevitably Jack Smith too, always an implied guest at this kind of polymorphously perverse dressing-up party.”

Update, 2/25: For Film Comment,Lily Majteles asks Katharina Wyss about her influences. “In the beginning, there were a lot of films where somebody commits suicide at the end, like Mouchette from Bresson, but it’s absolutely not the style and not the way of filmmaking—just the way he told the story of that girl. That really touched me. There was also Last Days from Gus Van Sant, which is also a totally different style. But then the more I got into the story of abuse that’s in it—hidden, but it’s in it—there was a film that impressed me by Sion Sono, which I think is the most violent but most honest film about this subject. The films that were important earlier were also Fassbinder’s, of course. . . . Raul Ruiz was really important. Also Marcel Proust, and Time Regained, spoke to my obsession with going back to the past and living there and living with characters of the past. How Raul Ruiz managed to make this film from this book—it’s just so crazy, and it’s just so great.”

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