Film Comment and More

Ryan Coogler is on the cover of the new March/April 2018 issue of Film Comment, and Devika Girish writes about how “the mythology of Black Panther is keenly attuned to the present even as it undoes the past: it is a pre-colonial fantasy all too aware of neocolonial geopolitics.” If you haven’t checked in on the entry on Black Panther recently, you might want to catch up. There’s a debate going on over how to respond to the challenge that Killmonger poses.

Jonathan Romney talks with Lynne Ramsay (image above), whose You Were Never Really Here, “a blood-soaked Descent Into Hell story, with Joaquin Phoenix as Joe, a war-traumatized professional killer trying to save a young girl from a pedophile ring,” opens today in the UK before rolling out in the U.S. next month. Gina Telaroli: “Where We Need to Talk About Kevin [2011] hits the nail on the head in scene after scene (finally to great effect), You Were Never Really Here provides so little information that it ultimately becomes a movie about its own structure, about the way the scenes come together and what’s missing in between.”

Let’s note here, too, that Sophie Monks Kaufman talks with both Ramsay and Phoenix for Little White Lies, while the Guardian’s Xan Brooks interviews Phoenix. Will Massa for the BFI: “Bodies loom, dislocated in time and space. Dislocation—psychological, societal, familial—is a unifying principle that pulses through Ramsay’s work and is reflected time and again through her formal approach.” And back at Little White Lies,Tom Williams focuses specifically on Morvern Callar (2002): “The entire film is drenched with this crushing realism whilst still managing to be visually poetic. Ramsay is a master at creating such a delicate balance.”

Back to Film Comment, and to Amy Taubin: “Spoor, the English title of the 2017 film directed by Agnieszka Holland in association with Kasia Adamik, refers to the trail left by an animal that hunters use to track it down. Pokot, the Polish title, is a hunting term for the count of the day’s kills. In the course of Holland’s film—her most magnificent work—the hunters become the hunted. Three of them are brutally killed. I cheered their deaths. They deserved no better.” Taubin also looks back on this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Bing Liu’s documentary Minding the Gap, winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, serves as an “example of how time, distance, and changing context can turn a window onto the past into a mirror ball,” writes Eric Hynes. “A fraught, epically ambiguous friendship is central to another Sundance prizewinner’s material journey into the past. With Shirkers, Sandi Tan (also a first-time filmmaker) revisits the long-lost footage from her unfinished narrative feature shot in Tan’s native Singapore in 1992, also called Shirkers, and in the process reckons with both why the film was never finished and how several relationships were forever changed in its wake.”

Nick Pinkerton considers “what impact the cinema may have had on the art of Mark E. Smith, a question that calls for some deep excavation.”

“And at this strange moment, it’s important to remember Dan Talbot as more than just a guy with great taste,” writes Kent Jones in a tribute to the late founder of New Yorker Films. “The fabric of the cinema and its culture is dangerously frayed and tattered, but that it holds together at all is a tribute to the spirit embodied and engendered by this man who loved Fassbinder’s work so much that he once bought eleven of his films ‘in one shot, like rugs,’ and who happily and publicly made the immortal statement: ‘How I managed to survive all these years with zero interest in the business end of things always puzzled me.’”

Also in this issue:

  • Yonca Talu on Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts, a “narrative patchwork alternating between a Hitchcockian ghost mystery, a Cold War espionage satire, and a Fellini-esque nightmare of midlife creative block.”
  • Chloe Lizotte: “Although its solitude might call to mind [Andrew] Haigh’s earlier studies of emotional distance—whether a chamber piece exploring sexual intimacy (Weekend, 2011) or a character’s shattering estrangement from her own life (45 Years, 2015)—Lean on Pete is far heavier with incident.”
  • Nick Davis on The Workshop, “Laurent Cantet’s meditation on conflict and killing in a multi-racial society, and on the vaporous line between artistic conjecture and murderous imagination.”
  • Steven Mears on Isle of Dogs, “easily [Wes] Anderson’s most political venture, a cautionary tale of demagoguery and scapegoating.”
  • Nicolas Rapold on Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow: Jennifer Lawrence, “Russified with bangs, throws herself into her role with abandon (cf. mother!), suggesting, pace how some directors cast her, that her bravura dramatic energy flourishes best in worlds of genre extremes.”
  • Teo Bugbee on Chloé Zhao’s The Rider, which accompanies “its characters with patience as they acclimate to unanticipated ways of being.”
  • April Wolfe on Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s The Endless: “What the directing duo’s third feature together lacks in scientific coherence it more than makes up for with witty, familial dialogue bounced back and forth between the co-directors, who play brothers returning to the ‘UFO death cult’ they escaped ten years prior.”

Nick Pinkerton reviews Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf, but revisits the experience of seeing it for the first time a bit more vividly in the introduction to his interview with the filmmaker: “With an intimacy that at times approaches asphyxiation, Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf shows the life of a methadone-dependent (and interdependent) couple, Nessa and Blaise (Bhreagh MacNeil and Andrew Gillis), drifting around Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. It’s a scaled-in, tough movie notably absent of lycanthropes and almost perversely unconcerned with issues of ‘likability,’ and when I saw it in spring of 2017 at the Maryland International Film Festival I felt like I’d been thwacked between the eyes with the blunt end of an axe.”

Film Comment’s also put together a collection of comments sent in along with the “Readers’ Poll 2017” ballots.

More Reading

“Between the end of principal photography on First Man and the start of post-production, Damien Chazelle squeezed in a visit to the UW–Madison. We’re very glad he did.” David Bordwell walks us through the oeuvre, adding insights from Chazelle.

Roger Angell, who’s been writing for the New Yorker since 1944, has a little story to tell about Bette Davis and her daughter, B.D.

From American Cinematographer by way of Movie City News: “In honor of Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC earning the ASC Award, Oscar and BAFTA Award this year for his camerawork in Blade Runner 2049, we’re making our complete archive of content about the production available to everyone.”

“For [Phil] Karlson crime is simply part of the fabric of everyday life, so he depicts it with anthropological detail, the Sir David Attenborough of larceny,” writes R. Emmet Sweeney for FilmStruck.

“A maverick who made brilliant, risk-taking pictures too caustic and disturbing for mainstream consumption, [Frank] Perry is rarely given the recognition bestowed upon his indie contemporaries like Altman and Cassavetes, even though the best of his work—David and Lisa,The Swimmer,Last Summer,Diary of a Mad Housewife,Play It As It Lays, and yes, Mommie Dearest—easily rates with their best,” writes Bruce LaBruce at the Talkhouse. “Man on a Swing [1974], then, is an unappreciated, almost forgotten film by a neglected director, which makes its pleasures all the more sweet.”

“When it comes to lists of great American directors, Robert Wise far too often swoops below the radar,” writes Jim Knipfel at the Chiseler. “He was a storyteller, first and foremost, and one of the best to come out of the major Hollywood studios. He was also, in his own quiet way, far more radical and influential than most viewers realize.”

When Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Big Lebowski was released on March 6, 1998, it was met with mixed reviews at best. Since then, though, it’s become more than a cult classic—it’s actually spawned cults (all in good fun, of course). For the Washington Post,Eli Rosenberg has asked David Denby (New York), Edward Guthmann (San Francisco Chronicle), Daphne Merkin (New Yorker), Alex Ross (Slate), and Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times), “Would you review The Big Lebowski similarly now? Or has your opinion of the movie changed with the benefit of two decades’ time?”


“The scandalous, almost futurist velocity of Berlin Alexanderplatz undoubtedly contributes to its appeal,” writes Dustin Illingworth for the Paris Review. “But while the book is funny, shockingly violent, absurd, strangely tender and memorably peopled, its lasting resonance lies not in its hulking antihero or picaresque narrative beats but rather in its collage-like depiction of the city. . . . It would take a fifteen-hour television miniseries, directed by the acclaimed German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder in 1980, to capture the bombast and intimacy of [Alfred] Döblin’s squalid hymn.”

“The offer came out of the blue.” At the Literary Hub, Martin Duberman looks back on the day his agent told him that Paul Robeson Jr. would be interested in having him “do his father’s biography . . . Paul said he was ready to turn his father over to history, to ‘give him up.’ But why so precipitously, to a man he’d met once? To a white, Jewish, gay activist?”

“In Andy Warhol: The Series, a ninety-six-page book with no illustrations published late last year by Triple Canopy, [Hilton] Als focuses on two specific women who greatly influenced the Pop artist’s life: his mother, Julia Warhola; and Shirley Temple, the first celebrity to answer Warhol’s childhood fan mail.” Elena Goukassian for Hyperallergic: “Without these two women, Warhol would have been just another nobody, which is exactly Als’s point.”

Dark City: The Real Los Angeles Noir is a compilation of black and white photographs delving into the sinister history of ‘la la land’, exploring how its glamorous veneer developed in tandem with criminal undertakings, corruption and hushed scandal,” writes Belle Hutton for AnOther.Dark City offers a fascinating insight into a largely forgotten portion of LA’s history.”


Wim Wenders has been overseeing the restoration of his work and, for Variety,Andrew Horn talks with him about the biggest challenge: “‘Wings of Desire was so much more complex because we shot three-quarters of it in black and white and one-quarter in color,’ Wenders explains. ‘They were intercut in each and every reel, and that’s where the trouble began.’ In order to marry the two formats, including seamless transitions, the film had to go through several generations of interpositive and internegative, losing quality with every step, to create the final negatives used for release. ‘As beautiful as it might have looked in Cannes ’87,’ Wenders adds, ‘every print ever since is six generations removed.’”

For Vulture, Miriam Bale talks with Donald Sutherland about working with Helen Mirren in Paolo Virzì’s The Leisure Seeker; “about his infamous sex scene with Julie Christie in Don’t Look Now; his wife of forty-six years, Francine; and how he feels he owes his career to the critic Renata Adler.”

Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization, 1981; Suburbia, 1983; Wayne’s World, 1992) tells Samuel B. Prime in the Notebook that “it’s such a relief to not care about the movie business anymore. There’s a beginning, middle, and end to everything. To be at peace with that is a great accomplishment.”

“The filmmaker and actor Kentucker Audley is both an exemplar of the D.I.Y. ethos and a believer in community,” writes Glenn Kenny before segueing into his interview for the New York Times. “His website, NoBudge, currently one of the best places to sample what’s happening in the low-to-micro-budget cinema worldwide, is still largely a one-man operation seven years after it was introduced as a Tumblr blog in 2011.”

Elianna Kan spoke with Alejandro Jodorowsky in 2015, and that interview is now up at the Paris Review: “I told him my parents were Soviet Jewish refugees and that questions of inherited memory preoccupy me, too, and we talked of how family stories from our past inform our identity, how we reshape and retell those stories. I worried my questions were too personal—more about his own family history and less about the films that had made him a legend—but he responded ecstatically, his voice often rising to a giddy high-pitched tone, and he laughed constantly.”

“I saw a UFO when I was a teenager!” Guillermo del Toro tells Rüdiger Sturm at the Talks. “And I have heard two ghosts in my life.”

At Cinephiled, Danny Miller talks with Raoul Peck about working on I Am Not Your Negro and The Young Karl Marx “at the same time and if he thought that his immersion into the world of James Baldwin informed his interpretation of the events in Karl Marx’s life.”


The Nitrate Diva writes about eleven of her favorite Hollywood Classics currently streaming on FilmStruck.

Speaking of which, Jill Blake’s written up a list of the five top dance performances by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Contributors to IndieWire have written up a list of the twenty-five best music documentaries of the twenty-first century.

In Other News

The Cannes Film Festival has announced that Bertrand Bonello (Nocturama) will chair the Cinéfondation and Short Films Jury during its seventy-first edition running from May 8 through 19.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Third Murder has won six Japan Academy prizes, reports Mark Schilling for Variety.

The UCLA Film & Television Archive is restoring Laurel and Hardy’s Perfect Day (1929) and has issued a call for support.

In the Works

“Former President Barack Obama is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows that will provide him a global platform after his departure from the White House,” report Michael D. Shear, Katie Benner, and John Koblin for the New York Times.

David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, has written a prequel, a feature currently titled The Many Saints of Newark, reports Maane Khatchatourian for Variety. “The film is set in the era of the Newark riots in the 60s, when African-Americans and Italians were adversaries.”

IndieWire’s Eric Kohn reports that Armie Hammer has confirmed that he’s been pitched the first sequel to Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name. “I mean, it’s not a finished script, but he’s got all the ideas for it. Luca’s all gung-ho about it, and by the way, if Luca’s doing it, I think we’re all gung-ho about it.”

Ralph Fiennes and Matthew Goode are joining Keira Knightley and Matt Smith in Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets, reports Deadline’s Anita Busch. “The film tells the true story of British Intelligence whistle-blower Katharine Gun (Knightley), who during the immediate run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion leaked a top-secret NSA memo exposing a joint US-UK illegal spying operation against members of the UN Security Council. The memo proposed blackmailing smaller, undecided member states into voting for war.”

Frederic Fonteyne fifth feature will star Sara Forestier, Annabelle Lengronne, and Noémie Lvovsky, reports Aurore Engelen for Cineuropa. La Frontière “tells the story of three women during a scorching hot summer in the north of France and Belgium. Axelle, Conso, and Dominic have nothing in common except that they are colleagues and that together, every day, they cross a border. On one side of the border, in Roubaix, they live dignified lives, while on the other, in Belgium, they prostitute themselves. It’s their little secret, their double life. At the end of summer, when a storm finally descends, these three women will enter into solidarity, as one might join the resistance.”

“The Disney Animation diaspora continues to grow, with key names from its feature animation operation branching out to helm projects of their own,” writes Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew. “The latest person to jump ship is Hyrum Osmond, head of animation on Moana, who is attached to direct On Animation’s adaptation of Winsor McCay’s iconic comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland.

For more news of projects in the works, see yesterday’s roundup.


André S. Labarthe, an actor, producer, and director who appeared in Jean-Luc Godard’s Vivre sa vie (1962) and became a vital contributor to Cahiers du Cinéma, passed away on Monday at the age of eighty-six. “Perhaps,” writes Gabe Klinger, “his most prodigious contribution to film history is the Cinéastes/Cinéma, de notre temps series, comprising of documentaries on filmmakers and occasionally actors and others speaking about their work, co-initiated in 1964 with Janine Bazin (who passed away in 2003). In both his written and filmic work, André was a deeply engaged and sometimes irreverent voice, and he became an important steward of the French critical establishment.” Patrick Friel in the Chicago Reader: “In his honor, our list this week features five extraordinary films about film—ones that move beyond simple documentary and are great works of cinema themselves.”

“Shammi, an actress who appeared in some 200 Bollywood films and was beloved for her comedic roles as doting sisters, mothers and grandmothers, died on Tuesday at her home in Mumbai,” reports Kai Schultz for the New York Times. She was eighty-nine.

“David Ogden Stiers, who played Major Charles Emerson Winchester III in M*A*S*H and later Cogsworth in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, has died,” reports Bruce Haring for Deadline. He was seventy-five. Tweets Alan Alda: “I remember how you skateboarded to work every day down busy LA streets. How, once you glided into Stage 9, you were Winchester to your core. How gentle you were, how kind, except when devising the most vicious practical jokes. We love you, David. Goodbye.”

“South Korean actor Jo Min-ki, who was recently accused of sexual harassment, has been found dead at his home,” reports Andreas Wiseman for Deadline. “The actor had been accused of molesting multiple students as a string of #MeToo allegations sweep the country. Local police say suicide is suspected.”


Film Forum’s posted two conversations repertory program director Bruce Goldstein’s recently conducted with Liv Ullmann, the first one (78’29”) recorded after a screening of Ingmar Bergman’s Shame (1968), the second (25’40”) after The Passion of Anna (1969).

Bill Gunn’s Personal Problems (1979) written by Ishmael Reed “was originally intended as ‘an experimental soap opera’ for WNET, the public broadcast station in New York. It never aired and was thought lost for many years, but the film has been newly restored by Kino Lorber and will be traveling theatrically soon, beginning with a run at Metrograph.” Violet Lucca and Tobi Haslett discuss Personal Problems on the new Film Comment Podcast (50’42”),

Joel Schumacher is one of Mike White’s guests on a Projection Booth episode on Falling Down (1993) (203’04”).

Marc Maron’s most recent guests on the WTF Podcast are Sharon Stone (78’26”) and David Oyelowo (79’32”).

The BFI Podcast passes along five “funny anecdotes from Guillermo del Toro” (6’10”).

On a new episode of Supporting Characters, Bill Ackerman talks with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, co-founder of Fiend Magazine and author of Rape-Revenge Films and Found Footage Horror Films (146’52”).


Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s new entry into their “Thinking Machine” series of audiovisual essays for De Filmkrant is “UP!” (2’45”).

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