A few days ago, we ran an essay here by Pico Iyer on Satyajit Ray’s The Hero (1966), followed by Meheli Sen’s comments on Uttam Kumar’s performance within the context of his stardom. Iyer has more to say and, writing for the New York Review of Books, he recalls the first time he saw Ray’s meditation on “the place of conscience.” The Hero “is anchored at every moment in Kumar’s performance, and to me it’s an astonishment. Everything about his soft hands as the film begins, his designer socks in two-tone shoes, his baby-faced insouciance, gives us a sense of spoiled entitlement; here is a man who thinks nothing of decorating his home with large, framed glossies of himself. Yet the beauty of Kumar’s Arindam Mukherjee is that he has the capacity to surprise us, again and again.”
With the retrospective Godard and the Dziga Vertov Group now on at MUBI in the U.S. and UK, Michael Sicinski suggests that it’s “possible that time and history have caught up with the Dziga Vertov Group, in the sense that two of the discourses that permeate the films—socialism and fascism—are now once again very much on the table. This is not to say that ‘Godardian pedagogy’ will find its rightful place as the aesthetic mode of the 21st century, but the films’ handmade, declamatory style does fit nicely with the age of rampant amateur media production and a younger generation for whom activism and technology are entirely coextensive.”
Also in the Notebook, Sean Gilman writes about “the busiest movie-going time in the Chinese-speaking world,” Lunar New Year week, which this year “was the biggest ever, almost doubling the box office take from last year.” He focuses on three blockbusters, Soi Cheang's The Monkey King 3, Raman Hui’s Monster Hunt 2, Chen Sicheng’s Detective Chinatown 2, and Dante Lam’s Operation Red Sea.
In his new “Queer & Now & Then” column for Film Comment, Michael Koresky turns to 1968 and Paul Newman’s feature debut as a director, Rachel, Rachel, starring his wife, Joanne Woodward. It’s “an American studio movie that takes a woman’s sexual liberation as its subject matter, still a rare focus fifty years later.”
For its February 1993 issue, Spin gave free reign to the writers, cast, and crew of Saturday Night Live. Twenty-five year’s later, the magazine has posted highlights from that issue, among them:
- Tom Hanks’s ode to SNL
- Spin founder Bob Guccione Jr.’s wide-ranging conversation with SNL creator Lorne Michaels
- Jonathan Bernstein’s interview with Chris Rock
- David Spade and Dan Ackroyd’s conversation about the old and what were then new days
- Adam Sandler’s interview with “Prince”
Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino “is somewhat similar to me in that he often uses cinema rather than reality as the point of departure for his inspiration,” Bernardo Bertolucci tells Variety’s Nick Vivarelli. “There are many directors who use reality as their basis. Luca’s reality is in the films that precede him, the cinema that he loves. So since he loves my body of work, it’s possible that he has taken it as the basis of his reality. For him, reality is cinema.”
Also in Variety, Henry Chu talks with Lina Wertmüller, who, in 1977, became the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar for best direction for Seven Beauties (1975). “Although she once declared that ‘there’s no difference between male and female directors,’ Wertmüller admires the work of women like Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow, who eased her loneliness in the Oscar director nom club in 1994 and 2010, respectively. . . . Now nearly ninety and still wearing those white-rimmed glasses, Wertmüller expounds at length on her career, her pioneering nomination, the #MeToo movement and her most recent job: directing an opera.”
“It’s much easier to explode than implode, no?” asks Daniela Vega in the middle of Phil Concannon’s interview her, the star of Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, for Little White Lies.
Stephen Saito talks with Travis Wilkerson about Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? and about “the demands of telling such a deeply personal and painful history live and ultimately adapting it for a more traditional screen experience to the reaction to the project within his family and the conversations the film has started everywhere it’s played.”
Contributors to Sight & Sound look back on this year’s Berlinale and write a paragraph or so on a favorite film plus a few more words each on another handful.
At Filmmaker, Celluloid Liberation Front writes about Christian Petzold’s Transit, Ruth Beckerman’s Waldheims Walzer, Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still, André Gil Mata’s Drvo, Corneliu Porumboiu’s Infinite Football, Mitsuo Sato’s Yama – Attack to Attack, and Lola Arias’s Theatre of War.
Highlights for Bert Rebhandl, writing for frieze, include Transit, Morgan Fisher’s Another Movie, An Elephant Sitting Still, and Adina Pintilie’s Golden Bear-winner, Touch Me Not.
And writing for Another Gaze, Rebecca Liu argues that Yan Mingming’s debut feature, Girls Always Happy, premiering in the Panorama section, “offers a searing and unapologetic look into how women are habitually positioned into mutually contradictory roles, and how their resultant emotional, material, and even existential dependence on men—acutely felt in modern China—place them in constant competition amongst other women in a way that can engender pettiness, smallness, and jealousy.”
In the Works
Apple’s ordered up a ten-episode series, an as-yet-untitled half-hour psychological thriller, from M. Night Shyamalan, reports Nellie Andreeva.
And from Deadline’s Erik Pedersen comes word of an upcoming Netflix comedy special, Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life.
From Movie City News comes word of the passing of Hugo Santiago, who, at nineteen, moved from his home in Argentina to France, where he became an assistant director to Robert Bresson. Ten years later, in 1969, he made his first feature, Invasión, co-written with Adolfo Bioy Casares and Jorge Luis Borges. They’d collaborate again on Les Aultres (1974). In 1979, he made Écoute voir . . . with Catherine Deneuve. Santiago appeared in Raúl Ruiz’s short film Colloque de chiens (1977) and narrated Ruiz’s Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983). Santiago was the “first filmmaker Gilles Deleuze wrote about,” notes George Clark. “I was fortunate to be able to meet him and talk about his work and cinema and his with Borges and Bioy-Casares in September 2008.” Hugo Santiago was seventy-eight.
Locarno artistic director Carlo Chatrian alerts us to the passing of Angela Ricci Lucchi. In 2014, the Harvard Film Archive presented an evening of her work with Yervant Gianikian, calling them “masters of the assemblage of found footage film, returning over and over again to images from the first decades of the 20th century, with a special attention to images of war and colonialism.”
MoMA presented a retrospective of their work in 2009: “The pair’s signature style often involves the manipulation of rare footage through re-photographing, selectively hand-tinting, and altering film speed to produce a final work of a distinctly otherworldly quality. The stunning visuals Gianikian and Ricci Lucchi create—and often enhance with original music—unravel ideologies and conflicts in a given moment in history.” And Marco Scotini wrote about their work for last year’s documenta 14: “De-archived and re-archived, history ends up liberating us from the imperium of time, from its univocal narrations, and from its dictates.”
“Cynthia Heimel, whose first book, Sex Tips for Girls, established her in the early 1980s as a fearlessly funny writer about men, feminism, female friendships, flirting, birth control and lingerie, died on Sunday in Los Angeles,” reports Richard Sandomir in the New York Times. “Do yourself a favor and read her eternal classic, ‘When in Doubt, Act Like Myrna Loy,’” advises Farran Smith Nehme. Heimel was seventy.
James Ellroy joins Mike White and guest co-hosts Richard Edwards and Eric Cohen in the Projection Booth (136’50”) to discuss Curtis Hanson’s 1997 adaptation of Ellroy’s 1990 novel L.A. Confidential.
On a new episode of The Rewatchables at the Ringer, Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, K. Austin Collins, and Wesley Morris revisit and discuss Jordan Peele’s Get Out (91’58”).
The distributor A24 has launched a new podcast with a conversation between Barry Jenkins and Greta Gerwig (40’49”). As Hunter Harris notes at Vulture, Gerwig says she’d “like to make a total of four films that take place [in Sacramento]. I would like to do a quartet of Sacramento films. It’s inspired by the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan quartet—she wrote these four books that took place mainly in Naples. They’re so great. I thought, Oh I’d like to do that.”
Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation) is a guest on TIFF Long Take (33’07”), talking about “how J. G. Ballard and Stanley Kubrick got him hooked on science fiction, how he comes up with and researches such complex ideas, and why he doesn’t see his films as prescient, but rather catching up with the obvious.”
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