Did You See This?

A Panorama of Politics

On Film / The Daily — Jun 14, 2019
Don Siegel’s Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), screening in Anthology Film Archives’ series Prison Images

Before we turn to this week’s top reads, let’s see to a few programming notes:

  • The Venice Film Festival has announced that it’ll be presenting a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement to Pedro Almodóvar during its seventy-sixth edition, running from August 28 through September 7.
  • This year’s Locarno Film Festival, the seventy-second, will open on August 7 with Ginevra Elkann’s Magari, starring Alba Rohrwacher and Riccardo Scamarcio, and close on August 17 with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s To the Ends of the Earth, featuring Atsuko Maeda as a travel-show host reporting on a mythical fish in Uzbekistan.
  • And the lineups for the eighteenth New York Asian Film Festival (June 28 through July 14) and the thirteenth Japan Cuts—New York’s festival of contemporary Japanese cinema, this year running July 19 through 28—are now set.

On to this week’s highlights:

  • On Monday, British filmmaker and novelist Peter Whitehead passed away at the age of eighty-two. Following his groundbreaking documentaries on the Beat poets (Wholly Communion, 1965) and the Rolling Stones (Charlie Is My Darling, 1966), Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967) is, as Adam Sweeting notes in the Guardian, considered by many to be “the definitive document of swinging London, a white-hot crucible of music, fashion and film.” The Fall (1969)—“arguably his masterpiece,” as Sweeting writes—is “a panorama of politics, violent protest and an anguished examination of the role of the documentary filmmaker.” Writing for Rouge in 2006, Nicole Brenez argued that “Whitehead’s work accomplishes an exceptional synthesis, open to every different dimension of avant-garde cinema.” And the resource on Whitehead is Paul Cronin, who has not only written extensively on the work but also posted hours of interviews.
  • Film Comment’s excellent weekly roundup of news and views points us to two essays on Jordan Peele’s Us from the new issue of Commune. Sheri-Marie Harrison argues that the “problem” with the 1986 Hands Across America campaign depicted in the film is that it was a mere “philanthropic gesture designed to make the members of the middle class feel like they were doing something, and to forestall more radical demands.” And Johanna Isaacson takes on the film’s setting: “Beautiful, relaxed, enlightened Santa Cruz is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Peter Thiel in hippie garb . . . And it hosts a growing underground colony of people who, deprived of the abundant sunshine and fresh air that is everywhere and yet out of reach, are ready for the Untethering.”
  • Today through June 26, New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center is presenting a series of films by the late Italian director Ermanno Olmi, whose work “can be lyrical and impishly funny, passionate and scholarly, observant and impassioned,” as A. O. Scott observes in the New York Times. “He had a documentary photographer’s eye for the specific and a painterly sense of composition . . . Olmi turned the prose of toil into poetry. If he is often, and correctly, classified as a next-generation neorealist—partial to nonprofessional actors, documentary techniques and everyday settings—his was a realism especially attentive to the ecstatic dimensions of quotidian experience.”
  • A Season in France (2017), the first film Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun has shot outside of Africa, opens today in the United Kingdom. It focuses on two brothers, both refugees from the Central African Republic, struggling to make it in Paris. Little White LiesDavid Jenkins talks with Haroun about the only movie theater in his nation’s capital, N’Djamena, a city of over 1.3 million people; returning to Chad for his next film; and, of course, his latest: “Refugees, as long as they walk, there is hope. You don’t stop walking. If you see a refugee just sitting down, then there is something really wrong.”
  • In this week’s 4Columns, Leo Goldsmith writes about Prison Images: Incarceration and the Cinema, a series running from June 20 through July 8 at New York’s Anthology Film Archives: “Given the evident paradoxes of what scholars have called ‘the carceral state’—including the steep escalation in rates of imprisonment and law-enforcement budgets, even as crime rates have been dropping for decades—the time is ripe to reconsider the ways in which cinema has rendered the penitentiary and its effects visible.”

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