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Archives and Anniversaries

On Film / The Daily — Mar 22, 2019
George Cukor rehearses with Marilyn Monroe during the making of Let’s Make Love (1960)

With the launch of the Criterion Channel just a little over two weeks away now, we’re wrapping a busy, news-filled week with today’s big announcement, a preview of the first month of programming. In other news, the new Tarantino, Stranger Things, and A24 trailers aside, the buzziest stories of the week are all about the early, early stages of three projects in the works. Wong Kar-wai has confirmed that he’s just about completed his screenplay for Blossoms, the third film in a trilogy that began with In the Mood for Love (2000) and 2046 (2004). Robert Pattinson is “poised to star” opposite John David Washington in Christopher Nolan’s next IMAX-ready blockbuster. And Park Chan-wook looks set to direct The Brigands of Rattlecreek, an “ultraviolent western” based on a screenplay by S. Craig Zahler (Dragged Across Concrete).

Here, in the meantime, are some of the most notable reads of the past seven days:

  • New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, and they’re going all out with a gala on April 29. The roster of guest speakers includes Martin Scorsese, Dee Rees, Pedro Almodóvar, Darren Aronofsky, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marielle Heller, Tilda Swinton, and John Waters. For its part, the Society’s magazine, Film Comment, has been pulling out highlights from its archive, beginning with a report from Cannes in 1963 by critic and filmmaker Nelly Kaplan (a series of her films will screen at New York’s Quad Cinema from April 12 through 18). Kaplan offers first impressions of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Luchino Visconti’s The Leopard, and films by Marco Ferreri, Robert Aldrich, Peter Brook, Masaki Kobayashi, Ermanno Olmi, and Lindsay Anderson. Saluting George Cukor in 1978, Andrew Sarris argues that it’s “well and good that most of the voices that ridiculously underrated him are now forever silent.” And Lawrence O’Toole spoke with Isabelle Huppert in 1980, the year in which the mighty French actress appeared in Jean-Luc Godard’s Every Man for Himself, Maurice Pialat’s Loulou, Marta Meszaros’s The Heiresses, and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate.
  • Sight & Sound, the magazine published by the BFI, has also been dipping into its archives. The occasion is the first complete retrospective in the UK of films by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub, currently running at several London venues through June. In 2009, Tag Gallagher argued that Straub-Huillet’s “craft is to turn texts into intonation and rhythm on one hand, and into images on the other,” adding that “their months of rehearsal of intonation and rhythm are just like piano practice.” The event has prompted Laurent Kretzschmar and Andy Rector to translate three texts on Straub-Huillet by the great French critic Serge Daney.
  • The 100th issue of Camera Obscura is devoted to Chantal Akerman, and in her introduction, Patricia White looks back to the first issues in 1976, when Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles and the journal became “entwined and ensconced in an originary moment of transatlantic feminist film studies.” More than forty years on, White notes that the journal’s “polemics have softened; its feminisms are transnational, queer, and intersectional; and its scope has expanded to encompass other forms of media . . . But as Akerman herself declared: ‘I have thought that the more particular I am, the more I address the general.’”
  • Writing for Oscilloscope Laboratories’ Musings, Keith Phipps tracks the years-long feud between Clint Eastwood and Pauline Kael that began when the New Yorker’s film critic wrote in her review of Dirty Harry (1971) that the “action genre has always had a fascist potential, and it has finally surfaced.” Phipps argues that “to be fully on Kael’s side requires focusing on the surface while ignoring what the film is up to elsewhere, and the ways it questions and undermines its central fantasy.” On a related note, in “Welcome to Violence,” a collection of six reviews for n+1, A. S. Hamrah suggests that Gran Torino (2008) and The Mule (2018) “allow Eastwood to resurrect himself as the aging embodiment of twentieth-century America as it confronts crime in the non-Anglo world today.”
  • This week has seen new issues of [in]Transition, the peer-reviewed journal of audiovisual essays; In Media Res, this time around addressing the “cinematic” in contemporary television and media; and Synoptique, featuring in its “Becoming Environmental” issue Peter Lešnik’s essay “Michelangelo Antonioni’s Images of the Planet in the Anthropocene.” Lešnik argues that, as opposed to run-of-the-mill “cli-fi” (climate change fiction) in which humanity bands together in the wake of a global catastrophe to restore the anthropocentric order, Antonioni’s films “instead convey the uneventfulness of the end of the world, portraying it as the unspectacular transition to the awareness of living in non-anthropocentric, inhospitable, and potentially hostile environments.” Have a great weekend.

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