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All That Dance!

Ann Reinking in Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979)

The Sundance Film Festival has spent the week finalizing the lineup for its 2020 edition (January 23 through February 2). New work by Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell), and Terence Nance (Random Acts of Flyness) will be among the highlights of the Indie Episodic program, and yesterday’s announcement of the lineup for New Frontier, the section spotlighting “work at the dynamic crossroads of film, art, and technology,” leads us to the first of this week’s items of note.

  • I’ve only just now caught up with the stimulating conversation Brazilian critics and filmmakers Fábio Andrade and Juliano Gomes posted last month about Pedro Costa’s Vitalina Varela, the winner of the Golden Leopard in Locarno now slated to screen in Park City. Among the many facets of this dense work that Andrade and Gomes discuss is the film’s relationship not only with Costa’s previous work but also with Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). “It hadn’t occurred to me,” says Andrade, “but I think the films have many things in common. In both of them, you have this presentation of mourning as labor—which is exactly what it is. And these labors of mourning are tied to very specific personal, gendered dramas, but at the same time that they are personal, they are not individual. With Jeanne Dielman, there’s the Holocaust; with Vitalina, the afterlives of slavery, as [Columbia professor of comparative literature] Saidyia Hartman says.”
  • Squeaky Flies in the Mud, an exhibition of paintings, works on paper, watercolors, lamp sculptures, and furniture by David Lynch, is currently on view at Sperone Westwater in New York through December 21. Exhibitions such as this one tend to draw journalists who want to talk with Lynch about his art as a sort of offshoot of his films, so what’s especially refreshing about Brooklyn Rail publisher Phong Bui’s interview is that, for the most part, he keeps the focus on the paintings. After all, as Lynch himself puts it, “Everything I’ve done, including my films, photography, and other things, has found its form through painting.”
  • This summer’s Jean Gabin retrospective at Il Cinema Ritrovato left José Arroyo, who teaches in the film and television studies department at the University of Warwick, eager to learn more about this iconic actor’s impact on French culture. So he’s turned to Ginette Vincendeau, a regular contributor to Sight & Sound who has written over a dozen essays for us and several books on French cinema. Their conversation, presented as a podcast in twoparts, addresses the many, many questions on Arroyo’s mind, including: Was Jean Gabin really responsible for May ’68, as Nicolas Pariser proposes in the October 2019 issue of Cahiers du cinéma?
  • Jessica Hausner, who recently spoke with us about a crucial scene in Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl (2001), is putting together a new project. Inspired by the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Club Zero will be the tale of a teacher’s revenge on the parents angered by her special relationship with their children. Hausner’s Little Joe, centering on a genetically engineered plant that can make people a little too happy, is currently in theaters and will screen on January 1 as part of the Contenders series at MoMA in New York. “Finding the horror in horticulture, Hausner’s movie readily falls into the sci-fi category,” writes Melissa Anderson at 4Columns. “But Little Joe is also a deadpan workplace comedy; an oblique maternal melodrama; and a droll anti-rom-com.”
  • Like the history of dance on film itself, Leigh Singer’s excellent new video essay for Sight & Sound, “Gotta film dance! The evolution of the movie musical,” begins slow and steady. As he then steps his way through the work of such innovators as Busby Berkeley (For Me and My Gal), Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise (West Side Story), and Bob Fosse (All That Jazz), Singer picks up the pace, eventually leading up to the orgiastic freneticism of Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria and Gaspar Noé’s Climax.
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