“His face did something to me. Or, rather, the film, with its compassion and its utterly jarring ending, which I won’t give away, did something to me. But, then again, you could also say that, in some sense, the film was only his face: his face and those lonely hills.”
If you haven’t yet caught up with Nicole Krauss’s story “Seeing Ershadi” in the current issue of the New Yorker, do. Krauss spins interrelated tales from viewings of Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry (1997) and two women’s possible encounters with the man who plays Mr. Badii, Homayoun Ershadi. That’d be the elevator pitch, but there’s far more to it than that.
“He said to listen to the environment. The he being the master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, all of us leaned forward in unison on creaking seats and clung to every word that he spoke. I tried desperately to jot down bits and pieces, to grasp hold of his words even in the near dark of the auditorium.”
“Never has the gender binarism of power been so starkly on view,” writes Film Quarterly editor B. Ruby Rich, introducing the new Spring 2018 issue. She’s addressing, of course, the #MeToo movement (as well as the #BalanceTonPorc (expose your pig) movement, which “has been just as galvanizing” in France) and argues that “the only true remedy is a complete shift of values that a new generation can be shaped by and to which existing generations can live long enough to adapt. Try to imagine a cinema for just such a new terrain. That’s a start.”
There is at the moment one essay from the issue online in which, as Rich notes, “Claudia Gorbman finds crucial meanings in the soundtrack to Bong Joon-ho’s OKJA (2017), parsing John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’ as a prelapsarian ode to nature that Bong employs, sentiment be damned, to counteract the ravages of capitalism.”
David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997), Mulholland Drive (2001), and Inland Empire (2006) “simply resist any final reading, and this is not an accident,” writes Simon Lovat. “Rather than refine the technique of identifying who is who, which scenes fit with what, discovering when and where certain scenes take place, or making further attempts to explain and fix (to use a Jamesian terminology that seems appropriate here) the films to our satisfaction, perhaps it would be more fruitful to consider why David Lynch, who is quite capable of offering a straightforward, easily read narrative when he wants to, chooses to offer us such puzzling material. . . . I propose that the ‘meaning’ of the David Lynch ‘trilogy’ inheres in its resistance to being conventionally understood and ‘made sense of.’”
Also in Bright Lights Film Journal, Jason Carpenter asks, “What in the name of holy Dumont would Groucho, Chico, and Harpo unleash on today’s swath of plundering pricks and cultural dinosaurs?”
Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig is on the cover of Time this week, and Eliza Berman writes that she’s “at once become her own success story and a symbol of the future of storytelling—of the not-so-radical notion that we may, perhaps even soon, get to stop qualifying director with female. She knows the power of seeing someone like yourself out there doing the thing you yearn to do. But she’s hopeful for a time when we won’t need to count every woman’s accomplishment as evidence. ‘You just look forward to the day,’ she says, ‘when it doesn’t mean anything.’”
A week from today, Paul Thomas Anderson will receive the inaugural Jonathan Demme Award in Austin. The Chronicle’s Richard Whittaker asks him what it is about Demme that’s inspired him: “Everything. It’s not just the stories that he's telling, it’s the style with which he's telling them. From the actors that he’s casting, from the camera moves that he’s employing, to the soundtrack, the lighting, all of that adding up to something that never felt like it wasn’t something you couldn’t do yourself. . . . He had a large appetite, and a lot of intellectual, emotional curiosity. He was a director who wasn't just making movie after movie after movie. It was a movie, five insane weirdo little side projects, followed later by a movie. The way he conducted his work was not a straight line at all. He zigzagged all over the place.”
Whittaker also talks with Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League. He finds him looking “tired, graying, and a little older. He’d spent much of the last six months on the road, visiting every Drafthouse location in a massive listening exercise. Trying to bind together a company that had gone from the darling of indie film culture to a borderline pariah. Trying to find a way to fix something that started as a PR disaster and had become a long, brutal self-examination.”
Renan Borelli gathers highlights from six decades of writing in the New York Times about Agnès Varda.
Writer and producer L. Frank Baum’s “first Oz short of 1910, Dorothy and the Scarecrow in Oz is actually the closest, plot-wise, to the familiar 1939 version,” writes David Cairns in the Notebook, “and it has a cool cast, including nine-year-old Bebe Daniels as Dorothy and future director Norman Z. McLeod as the Scarecrow. But Baum really hit his stride as a mogul four years later, with the release of three feature films, in the year when features had only just started appearing in America. And His Majesty the Scarecrow of Oz, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, The Magic Cloak (of Oz) are all a lot more entertaining than Cecil B. DeMille’s The Squaw Man, the earliest of 1914’s surviving American features.”
“Satyajit Ray’s 1966 film The Hero is a slyly self-reflexive commentary on contemporaneous Bengali filmmaking—both commercially popular films as well as his own more modest style of ‘parallel cinema’—couched in ever-shifting layers of irony and moral complexity,” writes Budd Wilkins for Slant.
“Creolization and decolonization are fundamental themes in the work of Alberta Whittle, the Barbadian artist who has been announced as the recipient of this year’s Margaret Tait Award,” writes Chris Sharratt for frieze. “Describing herself as moving ‘between the UK, Barbados and South Africa’, the Glasgow-based filmmaker has kept strong links with the Caribbean island she grew up on . . . Whittle’s filmmaking is inseparable from her work as a performer, her films acting as gathering points for ideas and actions that begin as staged events.”
On the occasion of the film’s fiftieth anniversary, Grasshopper Film is sending a new 4K restoration of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach out to theaters, starting with the Quad in New York tomorrow. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art follows on March 8, then the Ryder in Bloomington the following day, and the Wexner Film Center in Columbus in June.
“An impossible documentary, at once austere and rhapsodic, it evokes the 18th century while feeling as present as a live concert,” writes J. Hoberman in the New York Times. “Hardly a conventional biopic, Chronicle was made in the spirit of Robert Bresson’s 1950s adaptation of the Georges Bernanos novel The Diary of a Country Priest. In writing about that film, the critic André Bazin said, ‘the cast is not being asked to act out a text, or even to live it out, just to speak it.’ In Chronicle, the major text is Bach’s music.”
At Critics Round Up, James Kang has put together an excellent guide to critical reception of Chronicle over the years.
New York. J. P. Sniadecki and Joshua Bonnetta’s El Mar La Mar screens once more this evening at MoMA. “An exquisite experiment in applying avant-garde aesthetics to a political subject, the film demonstrates how suggestion is more effective than assertion, dissonances as revealing as confluences,” writes Matt Turner for BOMB.
Los Angeles. “Martin Scorsese has been chosen as the first recipient of the TCM Classic Film Festival’s Robert Osborne Award in recognition of ‘his work as a film preservationist and impassioned classic movie fan,’” reports Deadline’s Pete Hammond. The presentation will happen “on April 26, the opening night of the 2018 edition of the festival at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.”
The Art of the Movie Poster: Highlights from the Mike Kaplan Collection is currently on view at the entrance to the Ahmanson Building of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. For the Los Angeles Times, Susan King talks with Kaplan and presents a gallery of “rare, often one-of-a-kind posters.”
Boston. “A shining beacon of the weird, the wonderful, the nasty, the niche, and the eclectic, Boston Underground Film Festival returns for its twentieth edition next month, and has announced its first wave of feature titles,” writes Shelagh Rowan-Legg at ScreenAnarchy. BUFF 20 runs from March 21 through 25 at the Brattle.
“Dangerous dames have long been a staple of pulp fiction, with the classic femme fatale luring foolhardy men to dire fates on almost a weekly basis during the film noir boom of the 1940s and '50s,” writes Sean Burns for WBUR. “The phrase alone conjures black-and-white visions of Venetian blinds and countless cigarettes, allegorically exposing male anxieties of powerlessness in a changing post-war world. But the Museum of Fine Arts’ Femmes Fatales series (running March 2 to 18) makes a case for the archetype evolving through the decades into the present day.”
Berlin. “Two become one” is the theme of the Magical History Tour at the Arsenal throughout March. The series focuses on creative teams such as Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, François Truffaut and Jean-Pierre Léaud, Yasujiro Ozu and Chishu Ryu, F. W. Murnau and screenwriter Carl Meyer, and Ingmar Bergman and cinematographer Sven Nykvist.
In the Works
Brad Pitt is joining Leonardo DiCaprio in Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature, which now has a title and a release date. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, set in the Los Angeles of 1969, will be out on August 9, 2019, the fiftieth anniversary of the murders of Sharon Tate and four others by members of the Manson Family. The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Olsen passes along Tarantino’s comments: “The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), former star of a western TV series, and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbor . . . Sharon Tate. I’ve been working on this script for five years, as well as living in Los Angeles County most of my life, including in 1969, when I was seven years old. I’m very excited to tell this story of an LA and a Hollywood that don’t exist anymore.”
Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin are “eager” to reprise their roles in 9 to 5 (1980), reports Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. “20th Century Fox is in the early stages of a new version that would focus on three young women dealing with sexism and chauvinism in the workplace, who turn to the original trio for help in navigating and getting even with the course male higher-ups.”
BBC Studios is developing a six-part series based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, reports Deadline’s Peter White. “The Watch would be the latest Prachett adaptation and follows Good Omens, the Michael Sheen and David Tennant-fronted remake for BBC Two and SVOD service Amazon. Filming on the six-part series, based on the book by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, kicked off in September with the series set to air in 2019. . . . Gaiman is writing and showrunning.”
“Two years ago,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic, “I began taking up the childhood dream of writing comics. . . . For two years I’ve lived in the world of Wakanda, writing the title Black Panther. I’ll continue working in that world. This summer, I’m entering a new one—the world of Captain America. There’s a lot to unpack here.”
The latest episode of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Close-Up podcast features a conversation with Dee Rees and her Mudbound cast, recording during last fall’s New York Film Festival, and another with On Body and Soul director Ildikó Enyedi, recorded earlier this week (55’22”).
Manuelle Blanc’s 2016 documentary Persona: The Film That Saved Ingmar Bergman is currently streaming at ARTE (53’02”).
At the A.V. Club, Randall Colburn alerts us to David Lynch Teaches Typing, “a new game from Rhino Stew Productions, which finds the master of the uncanny guiding you through some basic typing exercises that trigger some very Lynchian shit to happen. Creator Luke Palmer offers a pitch-perfect Lynch impression to the game, emulating the director’s blaring bellow as he aggressively congratulates you for pressing the ‘F’ key when he tells you to.”
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