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Readings and Revisions

Tom Neal in Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour (1945)

What a week it’s been for lineup announcements. The San Francisco Silent Film Festival will open on May 1 with a new 4K restoration of Buster Keaton’s The Cameraman (1928) and then screen classics by Ernst Lubitsch, Aleksandr Dovzhenko, John Ford, Erich von Stroheim, G. W. Pabst, William A. Wellman, John M. Stahl, Marcel L’Herbier, Hiroshi Shimizu, and Victor Fleming, whose Wolf Song (1929) sparked a real-life romance between its hot young stars, Gary Cooper and Lupe Vélez. New Yorkers can start making plans for Art of the Real (April 18 through 28), the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s showcase of new nonfiction and hybrid works, and Tribeca (April 24 through May 5), which has just added anniversary screenings of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything . . . (1989), and Ben Stiller’s Reality Bites (1994), with the directors and casts reuniting for onstage conversations.

Cinema Reborn, one of the most exciting new festivals in Sydney, has begun rolling out the lineup for its second edition (May 2 through 6) with essays on each freshly added title. Read, for example, Eddie Cockrell on Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), David Hare on Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Adrian Martin on Jacques Rivette’s The Nun (1966), and Martin and Cristina Álvarez López on Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970).

This week’s other highlights:

  • Jordan Cronk has posted artist and filmmaker Morgan Fisher’s close reading of the final moments of Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour (1945). The essay, which originally ran in the spring 2009 issue of Cinema Scope, runs long, but this is no jazzy riff. Instead, Fisher attentively juxtaposes the disruptive moments in the film that may have been intentional with those that may not have been.
  • At the Ringer, Adam Nayman wrestles with “a classic that is also a failure,” A Clockwork Orange (1971), clearly the Stanley Kubrick film that’s troubled him most over the years. After chasing off Pauline Kael’s pan and revisiting the controversy that led to the banning of the film in the UK, Nayman addresses cancel culture. “It’s hard to say what’s more boring,” he writes: “The idea that a good movie is one made by a good person and/or contains content that could be considered progressive for its time and place, or the shouting-down of that position from those whose investment in rejecting it can seem condescending or creepy. A Clockwork Orange is worth defending and decrying.”
  • Along with artist Alison Knowles’s conversation with the late Carolee Schneemann and Anthony Hawley’s interview with Christian Petzold, the new Brooklyn Rail features Zoe Greenway’s review of Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White, the decades-spanning story of Qiao (Zhao Tao) and her small-time gangster boyfriend Bin (Fan Liao). Andrew Chan (4Columns) and Nick Pinkerton (Artforum) also consider Ash within the context of Jia’s filmography, while at the Notebook, Daniel Kasman interviews Jia and Jordan Cronk argues that it’s “impossible to attribute [Zhao’s] multitude of cinematic traits—which is to say nothing of her onscreen magnetism—solely to her director.”
  • Guy Maddin is in preproduction on his next project and Philip Concannon has managed to catch him on the phone between jaunts in and around Winnipeg as he scouts for locations. Their conversation touches on city symphonies, San Francisco’s vital role in the history of avant-garde cinema, and his work with Evan and Galen Johnson on The Forbidden Room (2015) and The Green Fog (2017), a found-footage reconstruction of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), a film that’s not only aware of “how horribly destructive the male gaze can be,” as Maddin puts it, but also “kind of” about “a gentrification of a person.”
  • Matthew Warchus’s Pride (2014) is a crowd-pleasing comedy about the odd but real alliance between London-based LGBTQ activists and Welsh miners during the British miners’ strike of 1984 and ’85. Catherine Grant and Diarmaid Kelliher have posted a first round of articles in a new special issue for the Open Library of Humanities that explores Pride’s connections to earlier activist and community films and videos. Let’s also note that two more issues of film journals have appeared this week. Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image presents essays on Gilles Deleuze, Raúl Ruiz, Jean-Luc Godard, and David Lynch as well as reviews of books on Pedro Costa and Hitchcock. And the new issue of Film Criticism opens with Peter E. R. Jordan’s reappraisal of Sidney J. Furie’s The Leather Boys (1963) as “an accurate articulation of a crisis of masculinity” in 1960s Britain.

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