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Trains of Light and Sound

On Film / The Daily — Sep 13, 2019
Satyajit Ray’s The Hero (1966)

The week wraps with one of those big annotated lists that editors love so much and that many readers find all but impossible to resist. The Guardian’s film team counts down the top one hundred films of the twenty-first century—so far, of course—all the way to their #1, There Will Be Blood. “Who am I to argue?” asks Paul Thomas Anderson. “I’ll take it.” For Peter Bradshaw, this “movie perhaps looks even stranger, starker, and more unforgiving now than when it was released in 2007.” In an intriguing little sidebar, the Guardian’s asked over a dozen filmmakers whose own features appear on the list which title they would put at the top of it. Hirokazu Kore-eda goes for Lee Chang-dong’s Secret Sunshine (2007), Barry Jenkins for Carlos Reygadas’s Silent Light (2007), Joanna Hogg for Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret (2011), Richard Linklater for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011), and the list goes on.

Here’s a shorter list of some of the highlights of the past seven days:

  • We could create separate models of time based on the contrasting ways we perceive light versus sound, suggests Lucrecia Martel in an interview MoMA has posted this week. Talking with the Argentine filmmaker just before she flew off to preside over the jury in Venice, Silvina López Medin also asked her about the documentary she’s working on sparked by her years-long interest in Javier Chocobar, an activist murdered while fighting for his indigenous community’s right to remain on their ancestral land. “Without a doubt, this is the most difficult thing I’ve done so far,” says Martel. “There are many threads.”
  • The new special issue of October is dedicated to the memory of one of its founders, the late film studies pioneer Annette Michelson. Yve-Alain Bois’s essay on the criticism Michelson wrote in France before returning to New York in 1996 is the only one freely available to nonsubscribers, but the print edition looks enticing. Along with two of Michelson’s lesser-known pieces are photos by Babette Mangolte and remembrances by October’s other founder, Rosalind Krauss, as well as others from Ken Jacobs, Yvonne Rainer, and many more artists and scholars. “The recollections go far toward humanizing a figure who was for many of us a forbidding presence,” writes David Bordwell in a new post at Observations on Film Art. And he passes along an imaginative and elaborate prank he put together back in the early 1990s. Michelson took it well. “Her sense of humor is only one of the many things that make me glad to have known her,” writes Bordwell.
  • Introducing the new issue of Film Quarterly, editor B. Ruby Rich addresses a few of the debates that have flared up in the past few months, focusing in particular on the renaming of the Gish Film Theater at Bowling Green State University. Also online is Diana Flores Ruiz’s conversation with Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera about The Infiltrators, a blend of documentary and reenactment set in an immigration detention center. And Kartik Nair talks with Priya Jaikumar about her new book, Where Histories Reside: India as Filmed Space, which, as Nair explains, “transforms a hundred years of familiar production stories by repositioning them within a philosophical, political, and very cinematic speculation about what happened when the camera’s lens opened on India’s mountain peaks, aristocratic mansions, and gentrifying cities.” On a related note, Omar Ahmed is currently rolling out a series on the “iconographic connotation of trains” in Indian cinema.
  • Ira Sachs, whose latest film, Frankie, opens next month, first saw Satyajit Ray’s Kanchenjungha (1962) around ten years ago. As he writes at the Talkhouse, “Sometimes a movie won’t let you go.” When he and Isabelle Huppert first started talking about working together, this story of a well-to-family vacationing at a mountain resort came to mind. “My film Forty Shades of Blue was a loose remake of another Ray film, Charulata (1964),” writes Sachs. “Little Men was inspired by two films by Yasujiro Ozu, Good Morning (1959) and I Was Born But . . . (1932), and my first feature, The Delta, was a riff on Ingmar Bergman’s Summer with Monika (1953). With Frankie, I had found my inspiration in one of the least known, but to me, most moving, films by a filmmaker I’ve never stopped learning from.”
  • Jana Prikryl, the poetry editor at the New York Review of Books and a poet herself—literary critic James Wood has called her “one of the most original voices of her generation”—writes about Joanna Hogg’s four features in the new NYRB. Unrelated (2007) grafts “the still, endlessly patient camera of Yasujiro Ozu or Chantal Akerman to the loose, seemingly spontaneous acting in films by John Cassavetes or Mike Leigh,” writes Prikryl. We can see Hogg then pushing this style “toward greater stillness in Archipelago (2010), which sticks to family relationships but within a narrower emotional range; approaching complete abstraction without entirely abandoning narrative in Exhibition (2013); and with her latest, The Souvenir, launching out toward a more typically cinematic story and the wit and emotional sweep of an old Hollywood movie—as if she’d exhausted the possibilities of restraint in her first trio of films.”

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