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Holiday Reading

On Film / The Daily — Dec 21, 2018
Manuel Abramovich’s Light Years (2018) is a portrait of Lucrecia Martel made during the making of Zama (2017)

Whether you’ll be at home or on the road this holiday season, stay safe. And here are five items to take with you into these short days and long winter nights.

  • The new issue of Senses of Cinema opens with a dossier on Latin American cinema, Senses’ first international collaboration with another journal—Revista Icónica, based in Mexico City—and its first joint bilingual special feature as well. With Lucrecia Martel’s Zama riding high on so many best-of-2018 lists, you might want to turn first to Jens Andermann’s assessment of the current state of Argentine cinema. Issue 89 also features a dossier on Cleverman, a television series that melds Australian Indigenous culture with the superhero mythos. Isao Takahata, the late giant of anime and cofounder of Studio Ghibli, and pioneering Soviet filmmaker Alexander Dovzhenko have been added to Senses’ indispensable collection of director profiles. And of course, this issue’s teeming with insightful articles, festival reports, and book reviews.
  • I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) stands as a milestone for both Canadian cinema and feminist filmmaking. In the new issue of cléo devoted to Canadian women filmmakers, director Patricia Rozema tells Cathleen Evans that the film “was a desperate attempt to disengage myself from not only artistic, but also religious and emotional, sets of absolutes that I’d grown up with.” Rozema’s latest work, Mouthpiece, premiered in Toronto last fall and features two female leads as well as a female cinematographer, editor, production designer, and costume designer. In Cinema Scope, Girish Shambu argues that “the collective and collaborative nature of the entire project from start to finish cries out to be viewed as a counter-model, a rebuke, to the ‘lone male auteur genius.’”
  • Looking back on a year littered with projects aimed at winning over female audiences, Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore understands “the desire to take comfort in uplifting, streamlined messages of women’s unity and to find solace in stories of women’s cheery triumphs . . . But what I find myself craving more and more is discomfort—depictions of how messy and complicated and difficult it is to be a woman or a girl in this world.” As an admirer of Karyn Kusama’s work, Willmore was a little heartbroken when she caught up with Destroyer and saw Nicole Kidman “pistol-whip people and burst in guns-a-blazing as LAPD detective Erin Bell . . . I felt an intense pang for something I yearn for and am still not finding as often as I'd like—art by and for and about women that doesn't feel the need to prove it can keep up with the boys, because it doesn't worry about what the boys think at all.”


  • A new restoration of Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998), depicting the chaos sparked in the Soviet Union in 1953 by the discovery of Stalin dying on the floor of his dacha, is currently screening in New York, London, Manchester, and Dublin. Writing for Diabolique, Gianna D’Emilio presents an excellent primer on director Aleksey German and the contemporary relevance of his dark comedy. “With fake news spurring real violence, there is, unfortunately, ample room for Khrustalyov, My Car! to resonate,” she writes. “Those of us who admired the way that German seemed to achieve time travel in Hard to Be a God will find Khrustalyov as impressive but exponentially more enjoyable. It is an unabashed art film, a tour de force through gleaming, gargantuan sets, orchestrated by a soundtrack of effects that skip drunkenly in and out of context, teasing interpretation.” The poster for this release, by the way, is designed by Andrzej Klimowski, and in the Notebook, Adrian Curry explains why this is a big deal.
  • Arts criticism doesn’t get much more personal than Tiana Reid’s piece for the Paris Review in which she approaches the work of artist, theorist, and filmmaker John Akomfrah, a cofounder of the Black Audio Film Collective, through the lens of her own anxiety. “Frantz Fanon, who worked as a psychiatrist, informs much of Akomfrah’s work, fueling the transformation of inner, supposedly private, feelings into public events and political contexts,” writes Reid. And “Fanon and BAFC alike mobilize personal unease to critique the global colonial project.” Akomfrah’s multiscreen installation Mimesis: African Soldier is on view at the Imperial War Museum in London through March 31, and in a recent essay for the London Review of Books, Jeremy Harding notes that “Akomfrah has always been happy with the idea of art as ‘threnody’ (his word), and it’s not such a great step from lamentation to an appreciation of beauty in death and destruction. The question is whether we’re prepared to go along with him. I find I am; perhaps to the ends of the earth, and as far as I can tell, that’s where he wants to take us.”

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