Film Comment and Film at Lincoln Center

Honor Swinton Byrne in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir (2019)

In the fractured reflection on the cover of the new issue of Film Comment, Honor Swinton Byrne seems to be contemplating an uncertain future. Inside, Sheila O’Malley argues that Tilda Swinton’s daughter delivers “one of the most extraordinary breakout performances in recent memory” in Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, winner of a grand jury prize at Sundance. Noting that Hogg has claimed Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy (1954) as one of her most essential inspirations, O’Malley quotes her as saying, “I strive to create this degree of aliveness.” At the same time, observes O’Malley, “Hogg clearly has a plan and knows what she wants to create, but within that plan she allows for extraordinary freedom. Perhaps the limits she imposes, by proceeding in chronological order, by keeping the camera in doorways or on the far side of a room, encourages the exhilarating sense of ‘aliveness’ felt in Unrelated [2007], Archipelago [2010], Exhibition [2013], and The Souvenir.” Hogg’s new film will open in theaters on May 17, and starting next week, you’ll be able to catch her first three features on the Criterion Channel.

Olivier Assayas’s latest film, which focuses on two cultured Parisian couples, Selena and Alain (Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet) and Valérie and Léonard (Nora Hamzawi and Vincent Macaigne), opens tomorrow. In her piece for Film Comment, Aliza Ma suggests that Non-Fiction (2018) “functions as a kind of workshop of Assayas’s own cinematic past, bearing explicit and implicit callbacks to themes and motifs undertaken throughout its director’s filmography, and a way of working through his preoccupations with the current state of the world—much of the rapid-fire dialogue sounds like discourses taken directly from his own thoughts—bringing forth inquiries into the uncertainties percolating through these time of unrest and flux.”

Also in this issue, Jonathan Romney talks with Tsai Ming-liang about his work with VR; Eric Hynes writes about Alina Rudnitskaya’s new documentary, School of Seduction; editor Galut Alarcón discusses the reconstruction of Raúl Ruiz’s exercise in “punk cinema,” The Wandering Soap Opera, reviewed by Violet Lucca in the new issue of the Brooklyn Rail; and Kelley Conway remembers the late Agnès Varda, who “understood the simplest needs that connected her—connected every person—to the rest of us in our unadorned and vulnerable humanity.”

There’s also a section in the new issue devoted to celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the magazine’s publisher, formerly known as the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and as of this week, as, simply, Film at Lincoln Center. Known for its top-notch year-round programming, FLC also presents the New York Film Festival each fall and its essential spring showcase, New Directors/New Films. Film Comment has invited an array of its contributors to reflect on a single work screened by the organization over the years that’s made a particularly personal impact. You’ll find, for example, NYFF director Kent Jones on Darezhan Omirbaev’s Chouga (2007), Hereditary director Ari Aster on Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003), Michael Koresky on Víctor Erice’s Dream of Light (1992), Devika Girish on Mrinal Sen’s One Day Like Another (1979), Amy Taubin on Agnieszka Holland’s A Woman Alone (1981), and Film Comment editor Nicolas Rapold on William Eggleston’s Stranded in Canton (2005).

To this collection, the magazine has added the memories of one of the original programmers, Amos Vogel, probably best known as the author of Film as a Subversive Art. Vogel passed away in 2012, but in 1993, he looked back on those early years in the late 1960s and early ’70s. “Godard was absolutely wild, compared to the operas at Lincoln Center,” he recalled. “I would say probably half the program, maybe two-thirds of the program, was totally out of the range of what was usually shown at Lincoln Center. That’s why I have a lot of respect for [Lincoln Center president William] Schuman, because he went to a lot of the shows. I never heard negative things about our programming from him, and the programming was so goddamned different!”

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