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Surveys and Milestones

Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-up (1990)

Having caught up with the latest updates from festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Italy, and beyond, we can now turn to a more leisurely paced roundup of some of the best reading (and listening and watching) from this past week.

  • In anticipation of a touring Abbas Kiarostami retrospective that Janus Films will launch in New York on August 2, Max Nelson surveys the oeuvre for Harper’s. He notes that the inaction of many of the Iranian director’s characters is often “an intimate kind of resistance, a way of defying the restrictions on their movements and minds. His movies deepened as he seemed to realize that this sort of defiant passivity could, as a filmmaking practice, become the basis for a new way of organizing time and perception onscreen.”
  • Beast Fables: On Animals in the Cinema is the theme of the new issue of the Cine-Files coedited by Catherine Grant and the journal’s founder, Tracy Cox-Stanton. Both have posted audiovisual work and written about it. Grant contrasts the zoomorphism of Joe Wright’s Hanna (2011) and Luke Scott’s Morgan (2016) with the anthropomorphism of Disney’s Bambi (1942), while Cox-Stanton explores both the “avant-garde sensibilities” and “feminist potentials” of producer Val Lewton’s Cat People (1042), directed by Jacques Tourneur, and The Curse of the Cat People (1944), directed by Robert Wise and Gunther von Fritsch. Of course, this new fourteenth issue also features straight-up textual essays, including work by Lucy Bollington and Rosalind Galt on the films of Lucrecia Martel.
  • Flashback is a new podcast launched by critics Dana Stevens and K. Austin Collins as a way to take a break from the relentless new releases beat. Each week, they’ll discuss a favorite older movie, and while the series will only be available to Slate Plus subscribers, the first episode is free to everyone. The topic is Gaslight, the 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten that you can watch on the Criterion Channel as part of our program George Cukor’s Women. Stevens calls Gaslight “an astute observation of an interpersonal dynamic—the deliberate manipulation of one party’s perception of reality by another, more powerful party—that’s as ubiquitous and as troubling today as it was seventy-five years ago, if not more so.”
  • Jean-Claude Carrière has been writing screenplays for well over six decades now, working with such giants as Jean-Luc Godard, Nagisa Oshima, Louis Malle, Miloš Forman, Andrzej Wajda, Volker Schlöndorff, Philip Kaufman, Jonathan Glazer, and most famously, Luis Buñuel. As Lawrence Garcia points out in the Notebook, even with thirty-seven films, the series running at New York’s Museum of Modern Art through June 16 “constitutes less than a third of his career.” Garcia notes that, in his 1990 book The Secret Language of Film, Carrière wrote that he has never seen his screenplays as completed works, but rather “instruments subjected to ‘a whole series of special readings,’ pages to be ‘read, annotated, dissected—and discarded.’ It is, perhaps, the legendary screenwriter’s embrace of this ultimate disposability that accounts for his astonishing prolificity.”
  • Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) was a famously troubled production. Improperly developed film stock, delays due to freaky weather, and a fallout between the Russian director and his cinematographer are only a few of the obstacles that ultimately led to the film being shot three times. Attending the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival last fall, Patrick Gamble decided to retrace the steps of the film’s making in Estonia. He’s now filed a report, complete with photos, for the BFI. “Searching for each of these locations requires crossing countless geographical and spiritual boundaries,” he writes, “with each new location encouraging dialogues about how the reverberations of the past can be felt in the architecture that surrounds us.”

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