Summer Reading II

On Film / The Daily — Jul 4, 2018
Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book (2018)

A few weeks ago, I gathered a round of reviews and recommendations, a summer reading list of recently published books that you might consider taking with you wherever you may be headed this season. With the appearance of new issues from three major film magazines, it’s time for a second round. A Venn diagram would show that what connects the new Cinema Scope, Film Comment, and Senses of Cinema is this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Seven weeks on, we can now begin to discern which titles from the various lineups are emerging from the pack as worthy of at least a second thought. And given that Cannes determines the shape of any given year in cinema to a considerable degree, that’s no small thing.

Senses of Cinema

In his report for Senses on Cannes 2018, Daniel Fairfax writes about around two dozen films, but he opens with and focuses primarily on Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book. He sees it as “a kind of epilogue, vingt ans après, to Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma (1988–1998) carrying out the same kind of historico-politico-audiovisual rumination for the nascent twenty-first century as Histoire(s) did for the exsanguinated twentieth century.” It’s also “nothing more nor less than a film-meteorite, a missive from a distant planet, shooting through the atmosphere, pointing us towards what the cinema can be, and reminding us not to accept the cinema as it is.” Fairfax has a clear second favorite, Diamantino, which took the top prize at Critics’ Week, and he interviews directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt.

The bulk of the rest of the issue is given over to two dossiers, one on nostalgia in cinema, the other on Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, the French filmmaking couple whose three features pay homage to either the giallo (Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears) or the western (Let the Corpses Tan). In the coming weeks, the Queensland and Melbourne film festivals will present retrospectives of their work, which includes six shorts.

One more item from Senses 87 calls out for mentioning before moving on. Pip Chodorov and Jeremi Szaniawski talk with Gaspar Noé, whose Climax became a critical favorite when it premiered in Cannes and won a top award at Directors’ Fortnight. But Climax isn’t the subject of this interview. Instead, the focus is on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which Noé’s seen “fifty, maybe sixty times by now.”

Cinema Scope

A little under half of the articles in the seventy-fifth anniversary issue of Cinema Scope are online, and about half of those have something or other to do with Cannes 2018. As he does nearly every year, editor Mark Peranson argues that, no matter how great some of the films may be, overall, the festival can be a fairly unpleasant experience. Peranson also asks Lars von Trier, whose The House That Jack Built premiered out of competition in Cannes and focuses on a serial killer, “Do you see provocation as a moral stance?” The answer, of course, is “Yes.”

The other interview online is Blake Williams’s with Bi Gan, whose Long Day’s Journey Into Night premiered in the Un Certain Regard program and came away with no awards but plenty of critical plaudits. For Williams, it “has to be one of the most richly ambivalent films this century about cinema’s ontological relationships with time, space, memory, and dreaming.”

In the Spotlight section of this issue, Mallory Andrews reviews the Palme d’Or winner, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, arguing that it’s in the third act that the film “rises above the quiet domestic dramas of the rest of his oeuvre and becomes something far more bitter.” Reviewing Happy as Lazzaro, Celluloid Liberation Front finds that Alice Rohrwacher “seems to have found in the possibilities of magical realism a more congruous accomplice for her idea of cinema.” And writing about Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White, James Lattimer suggests that “for all the different moods and registers that feed into the film, Jia’s skill at modulating tone is such that all this heterogeneity still produces one single flow.”

Film Comment

Spike Lee, whose BlacKkKlansman won the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes, peers at us from the cover of the new July-August 2018 issue of Film Comment, and online, the magazine offers an excerpt from Teo Bugbee’s article. “Beginning with School Daze and leading up to BlacKkKlansman,” she writes, “Lee’s best genre films use pastiche to directly respond to the disorientation of looking into film history and finding a void of black faces and black artistry.”

Wang Bing’s Dead Souls, an eight-hour documentary about the Anti-Rightist Campaign in China in the late 1950s, “shines a bright and steady spotlight into a dark corner of 20th-century Chinese history,” writes Eric Hynes, adding that it’s “a corner the communist government continues to try to keep in shadow.” Also online are overviews of Cannes 2018 from editor-in-chief Nicolas Rapold, contributing editor Amy Taubin, and New York Film Festival director Kent Jones, who explains why “it feels like the Cannes Film Festival, the film business, and the art of cinema have drifted away from each other like tectonic plates, each becoming its own separate territory.”

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