Did You See This?

Perspectives on Half a Century

On Film / The Daily — Apr 12, 2019
Nelly Kaplan

As the rumor mill keeps churning away in anticipation of next week’s announcement of the full Cannes lineup, Ciro Guerra has been named president of the jury of this year’s Critics’ Week. Guerra has most recently followed up on his 2015 international breakthrough, Embrace of the Serpent, with last year’s Birds of Passage, codirected with Cristina Gallego and insightfully reviewed this week by David Vanden Bossche for photogénie and Eduardo Frajman in Bright Lights Film Journal. The Directors’ Fortnight, in the meantime, has announced that it’ll be presenting Go Where You Look!, a trilogy of virtual reality experiences created by Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang.

Elsewhere in Europe, there’s news from the Locarno Festival, which will present its Pardo d’onore, a sort of lifetime achievement award, to John Waters. The ceremony will be accompanied by a live chat and screenings of a few of Waters’s films, including Polyester, presented “in Odorama—one of the first ‘olfactory cinema’ experiences—exactly as it was in 1981, with scratch cards handed out to viewers before the screening.” And there’s startling news from Vienna. Béla Tarr, who has insisted for years that The Turin Horse (2011) is his final feature, will premiere a new film during this summer’s Wiener Festwochen. Missing People focuses on outsiders in the Austrian capital. Tarr will also be giving a master class and taking part in a conversation with philosopher Jacques Rancière, who has written extensively on Tarr’s work.

On to the highlights of the past seven days:

  • In the wake of Agnès Varda’s recent passing, Another Gaze has put a series of questions to eight writers, programmers, and scholars about “her work and spirit.” Jenny Chamarette, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, notes that “Varda worked across so many technological frontiers: photography, analogue and digital film, installation art, and she had an incredibly fine-tuned understanding of the domestic, emotional, and spiritual relationships of color to black and white . . . She understood so deeply the relationships between life, death, mourning, and celebration, and she knew how to make that manifest.”
  • With The Image Book set for broadcast on Arte in France and Germany and on Switzerland’s RTS, Jean-Luc Godard has been giving interviews—in French, of course—which you can sample here. Toronto’s TIFF Cinematheque, in the meantime, will be presenting Godard in the ’60s: Breathless to Weekend in June, and the TIFF Review has just rolled out James Quandt’s program notes. “Half a century later,” he writes, the “sheer exhilaration” of these films is “undiminished: the riffy, discursive rhythms and stuttering montage; the free-form black and white and retina-ripping primary colors of Raoul Coutard’s cinematography; the fragmented, polyphonic soundtracks, their uncued bursts of music and voice amplifying the visual pow of the ads, texts, and intertitles, the cars, guns, and consumer goods that swarm the screen as in a Rosenquist mural.” Also new at the Review are Quandt’s notes on Jacques Becker as well as Josef von Sternberg’s collaborations with Marlene Dietrich, plus short essays by Brad Deane on David Lynch and Amanda Brason on Lynne Ramsay.
  • Fawlty Towers, the series created in the mid-1970s by Monty Python alumnus John Cleese and his partner at the time, Connie Booth, has been named the greatest British television sitcom ever by a panel of comedy experts put together by the Radio Times. Forty years on, “its eerie prescience seems even more important than the cringing laughter it gifted us,” argues Alex Clark in the Guardian. “For Fawlty Towers was, above all, an ensemble piece about isolation. It was a portrait of rage and frustration, an exploration of the impotence that results when the world as we wish it to be is so agonizingly at odds with the world as it is. It was the Brexit mindset incubating in the shabby surroundings of a down-at-heel hotel that had seen far better days.”


  • Wild Things: The Ferocious Films of Nelly Kaplan, a series opening today and running through April 25 at New York’s Quad Cinema, is further evidence of revived interest in a vital but often overlooked filmmaker that might be traced back to Joan Dupont’s outstanding profile in last summer’s issue of Film Quarterly. “Kaplan’s eloquent, vitriolic comedies are often social parables of vengeance, in which the weak rise up to serve the powerful their comeuppance,” writes Ela Bittencourt for the Notebook. In the New York Times, J. Hoberman revisits A Very Curious Girl (1969), a “one-time staple of women’s film festivals that never quite became a classic . . . While very much of its time, A Very Curious Girl remains amazingly fresh after fifty years.”
  • Wrapping this week’s round, we come full circle back to the festival circuit. Furious and gossipy, Olaf Möller’s piece for the Notebook on the Berlin, Venice, and Rome film festivals is a little inside baseball, but for anyone with even the slightest interest in the politics of festival programming, it’s also a wildly entertaining meander through an intricately interconnected system. Möller, a programer himself and a ferocious critic who essentially writes in one of two modes, rant or rave, suggests that those counting on Carlo Chatrian to do for the Berlinale what he did for Locarno, namely, create a festival that appeals to both cinephiles and its sponsoring city, might want to keep their hopes in check.

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