Tsai Ming-liang, Jodie Mack, Albert Serra, and Laida Lertxundi are among the dozens of moving image artists who will present new work in the Projections section of this year’s New York Film Festival from October 4 through 7. Formerly known as Views from the Avant-Garde, the program was given a new name in 2014 to reflect its broader mission of introducing film and video work that “expands upon our notions of what the moving image can do and be.” Film Society of Lincoln Center director of programming Dennis Lim, who’s curated this year’s edition with Aily Nash, emphasizes “the sheer variety of this selection, which speaks to the credo of Projections: radicalism and innovation come in many guises, and the most vital contemporary artists continue to find a wide array of new possibilities for the moving image.”
Projections 2018 will open with Daniel Schmidt and Gabriel Abrantes’s Diamantino, winner of the Critics’ Week Grand Prize in Cannes. Carloto Cotta, who’s worked with Raúl Ruiz, Valeria Sarmiento, Eugène Green, Miguel Gomes, Werner Schroeter, and João Pedro Rodrigues, plays a soccer star with a “coincidental resemblance” to Cristiano Ronaldo. A terribly botched play during a World Cup final is the inciting incident that sets Diamantino off on a bizarre odyssey. Introducing his interview with the filmmakers for Film Comment in May, Jordan Cronk noted that “Diamantino has topical range that is humorously vast, touching on everything from Brexit to the ongoing refugee crises to consumerism to genetic science and gender modification.”
A newly restored 35 mm print of James Benning’s first feature-length film, 11 x 14 (1977), originally shot on 16 mm, was, for me, a personal highlight of this year’s Berlinale. Made up of sixty-five precisely composed shots, each one throwing a new perspective on the ones that preceded it, 11 x 14 is something of a road movie, a trek across the American midwest of the mid-1970s with recurring characters and locations. When Light Industry presented the film in 2012, Julie Ault noted that “Benning’s goal, as he puts it, was ‘to construct a narrative that would destroy a narrative that already existed.’”
Two contemporary films in the lineup were also shot in 16 mm. Ted Fendt’s spare, sixty-two-minute Classical Period (another Berlinale premiere) follows a group of friends cast from Fendt’s own circle, who discuss books, architecture, and music. Notebook editor Daniel Kasman suggests that the film plays out in “deadpan and deceptively off-hand little moral stories, plotted as twenty-something Philly or suburban New Jerseyans might live out Rohmer’s tales.” One minute shorter than Classical Period, Locarno selection The Grand Bizarre is the latest reverie from critical favorite Jodie Mack, who combines stop-motion animation and live action footage to explore the cultures of the world, focusing on varying patterns in textiles and fabrics. Kasman finds the film to be “generous and joyous, restorative, inquisitive and unexpectedly danceable.”
Albert Serra’s Roi Soleil and Dora García’s Second Time Around were both awarded the Grand Prix at the Marseille International Film Festival last month. Following The Death of Louis XIV, his 2016 film with Jean-Pierre Léaud in the title role, Serra revisits the Sun King (played this time by Lluís Serrat) as he writhes in pain on the floor of a contemporary gallery. García’s first feature is a blend of narrative and nonfiction centered on the work of Oscar Masotta, a theorist and crucial figure in the Argentinian avant-garde from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Until yesterday’s lineup announcement from the FSLC, little was known about the new feature from Tsai Ming-liang other than that it would premiere out of competition in Venice. Now we know that Your Face is comprised of a series of close-up portraits of men and women (including Lee Kang-sheng, who’s appeared in all of Tsai’s films) accompanied by a soundtrack from Ryuichi Sakamoto.
Among the highlights of the seven shorts programs will be new restorations of works from the mid-1980s from Ericka Beckman, who, as noted last fall by the Secession in Vienna, “makes cinematography itself a medium of performance art.” The lineup also includes new work from Sky Hopinka, an artist featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial; Helena Wittmann, whose Drift (2017) screened at this year’s New Directors/New Films festival in New York; Ben Rivers, who collaborated with Ben Russell on 2013’s A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness; and Laida Lertxundi, whose Words, Planets is described by the FSLC as an “ode to motherhood and nature’s cosmic energies.”
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