Did You See This?

1968 All Over Again

On Film / The Daily — Sep 7, 2018
George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Just hours after last week’s round of five notable items went up on Friday, a breaking story reignited the engines of social media that had already begun gearing down for the long holiday weekend. The Village Voice, for decades the greatest and most influential alternative weekly in the country, was shutting down. In the days that followed, the tributes began appearing, most notably, of course, from former contributors. Art critic Peter Schjeldahl, snapped up from the Voice by the New Yorker in 1998, recalls paging through the alt-weekly’s archives just a few years ago: “The paper’s swaggering confidence and pizazz, instantly responsive to zigs and zags of the downtown Zeitgeist, startled me. I had forgotten. No one knew that history was loading a bullet with our name on it.” In the New York Times, former Voice columnist Tricia Romano argues that the paper’s demise isn’t just a story about a single publication. It’s “about the end of New York as a cultural and political center.”

That’s a conversation for another day. For now, let’s note that the Museum of the Moving Image is organizing an event slated for October 2, a discussion of the impact of the Voice’s film coverage on American film culture. Other names may be added, but so far, panelists include former Voice critics and editors Melissa Anderson, Michael Atkinson, Bilge Ebiri, David Edelstein, Molly Haskell, Nick Pinkerton, Amy Taubin, and of course, J. Hoberman, who reviewed movies for the Voice for over thirty years, and whose name brings us to the first of this week’s five highlights.

  • Starting today and on through Monday, Hoberman will present a program at New York’s Metrograph with one of the cleverest titles for a series in some time: “Everything Was Now: ‘1968’ Circa 1968.” Writing for the New York Review of Books, Hoberman argues that “the quintessential 1968 movie then and now remains” George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. It “brought the Vietnam War home, importing the destructive violence of Watts, Newark, and Detroit to bucolic Middle America. Not for nothing is one dazed character, traumatized by the attack of a cannibal ghoul in an American flag-bedecked cemetery, forever mumbling, ‘What’s happening?’ It was the question of the hour.”
  • Melissa Anderson, the Voice’s chief film critic from November 2015 to September 2017, writes about another film from 1968 at 4Columns. From next Thursday through September 19, MoMA will present a new 4K digital restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s Sympathy for the Devil, originally entitled One Plus One. A record of the evolution of the Rolling Stones’ “ode to Lucifer” interlaced with “several agitprop skits,” the film “functions as something of a hinge in Godard’s filmography,” notes Anderson, coming as it does after the filmmaker’s declaration of the end of cinema in the final credit of Weekend (1967) and just before he formed the Dziga Vertov Group with Jean-Pierre Gorin. Ultimately, Anderson finds that “the Stones’ sulfurous anthem has a gravity and political urgency missing from Godard’s film, despite its strenuous sloganeering.”
  • For Film International, Jake Rutkowski asks Tag Gallagher about his “massive biography and exegesis of an entire oeuvre,” 1986’s John Ford: The Man and His Films. In Gallagher’s own words, his argument was that Ford was “profoundly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-militarist, anti-chauvinist, and the most inventive and imaginative of American moviemakers. At a time when Hollywood movies were rarely taken seriously, I said he was our greatest native-born artist.” Gallagher, also the author of a biography of Roberto Rossellini, now has a new book out, John Ford: Himself and His Movies, which draws on recent scholarship. Film International’s put together a healthy round of supplementary links, and Gallagher gives Rutkowski a list of his top ten films of all time, “limited to one picture per director.”
  • Speaking of lists, Aki Kaurismäki is the latest filmmaker to name his favorite fifty films at the Cinémathèque des réalisateurs. There, we also find lists contributed by Maren Ade, Olivier Assayas, Leos Carax, William Friedkin, James Gray, Todd Haynes, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Christian Petzold, Park Chan-wook, Lynne Ramsay, Agnès Varda, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wim Wenders, John Woo, and others.
  • The new issue of the Brooklyn Rail is full to bursting with great cinephilic reading. Leo Goldsmith writes about Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich, who “crafted a uniquely sensuous and deranged universe of preposterous exoticism and deviant pleasures.” Gina Telaroli talks with Anthology Film Archives programmer Hannah Greenberg about the series Women of the West, currently running through September 16. Celluloid Liberation Front looks back on this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato, and Steve Macfarlane reviews RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening. Mark Bloch writes about a recent exhibition of work by Jonas Mekas (the Village Voice’s first regular film columnist, by the way). Anthony Hawley considers four film projects from the Forum Expanded program at this year’s Berlinale. And Tony Leuzzi reviews a new volume of poetry by Donna Masini, 4:30 Movie.

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.